Hyundai Motor Co said Saturday it will pull out of the Japanese passenger vehicle market amid sluggish sales, and instead focus on commercial vehicle sales there.
Hyundai, South Korea’s No. 1 automaker, has found it tough going in Japan and sold only about 15,000 passenger cars there since 2001 when it made inroads into the home market of international rival Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s biggest automaker.
“Hyundai Motor has decided to suspend passenger vehicle sales in Japan and will instead allocate its resources to focus on commercial vehicle sales in the country,” Hyundai said in a statement.
If the market environment improves in Japan it could resume passenger car sales there, it said.
The timing of the pull out will be decided after consulting with dealerships in Japan, said Hyundai spokesman Ki Jin-ho.
Though Hyundai’s sales remain sluggish in Japan, Hyundai said its global auto sales in the third quarter surged 41 percent to 824,181 vehicles compared to the year before, helped by increased demand for fuel efficient cars.
Hyundai, which along with affiliate Kia Motors Corp. forms the world’s fifth-largest automotive group, saw its worldwide market share increase to 5.5 per cent in the third quarter through an emphasis on quality and design.
Both companies have expanded aggressively overseas. Hyundai has factories in China, India, Turkey, the US and the Czech Republic. Kia has plants in China and Slovakia and began production at its first US factory in West Point, Georgia earlier this month.
Hyundai’s move is in clear contrast to Toyota, which is making a push into South Korea.
Toyota has been active in South Korea since 2000 when it established a local arm and began selling the luxury Lexus brand the following year. Now the company is offering a broader range of choices to South Korean drivers under the Toyota brand, and aims to sell 500 of those vehicles a month this year and 700 a month in 2010 through five dealerships.
Under the Lexus brand, Toyota sold 6,065 vehicles in South Korea last year, which accounted for nearly 10 per cent of the total import market.