Hyundai Motor America started the year with the goal of surpassing Volkswagen of America Inc. in terms of U.S. sales. The prior year, Hyundai whizzed by Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motor Motors North America., setting up VWA as its next victim.
Halfway through the year, Hyundai is well on its way to knocking VWA off its 7th- place perch — but so is Mitsubishi, whose strong sales now are neck-and-neck with VWA's.
“We were proud when we surpassed Mazda in 1999, and I think we probably will be even more proud if we can beat Volkswagen,” says Pierre Gagnon, president and chief operating officer of MMNA.
Gagnon admires VWA's ability to catch the eye of Generation X, the youth market of the late 1990s. But Gen X (now aged 24 to 35) is giving way to the younger and more powerful Generation Y (born 1980-1995), which favors Mitsubishi and the low-cost Lancer. Mitsubishi now claims a younger U.S. demographic than VWA, selling at triple the national average in the Gen Y segment.
While the prospect of passing VWA is tantalizing to both auto makers, Hyundai has the lead. VWA says it will fight back with incentives and a marketing strategy to promote its entry-level vehicles.