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Hyundai and Kia Ride Out of 2019 With Heads Held High, and There's Two Vehicles to Thank for It

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The other day, we told you about Subaru bucking the industry’s cooling trend to scratch out yet another record year-end sales tally. A full year of Ascent production catapulted the brand over a hurdle that, without the new model, it would have failed to clear.

Nothing beats a new three-row crossover for hiking sales, boosting ATPs, and growing margins.

It’s something the members of Hyundai Motor Group know well. Both Hyundai and Kia have a brace of crossovers to thank for the solid sales gains enjoyed in 2019.

Hyundai, which only a couple of years ago was scrambling to reverse a sudden sales slump following years of healthy increases, posted a 3 percent sales gain in 2019. Sister corporation Kia Motors recorded a 4.4 percent increase.

The Koreans’ crossover surge is almost at an end. There’s just a single small Kia crossover (the 2021 Seltos) left to join the fold, what with Hyundai’s sub-subcompact Venue now lending its tiny footprint to the nation’s dealers. Since the brand’s 100,000-vehicle plunge in 2017, Hyundai has turned the Santa Fe Sport into the new (and certainly improved) Santa Fe, kicked the old Santa Fe to the curb in favor of an all-new midsizer, and brought on board the subcompact Kona.

Kia’s stable has stayed more, well, stable, minus the addition of a new range-topping crossover of its own and a Niro sort-of crossover available in a variety of electrified flavors. Like Hyundai, its passenger car models have either undergone a revamp, or are in the process of renewal.

Individual improvements aside, both Hyundai and Kia can thank two vehicles for the 2019 sales bump: the Palisade and Telluride. The former, which first appeared on Hyundai sales sheets in June, sold 28,786 units last year, while the Telluride showed up in February and added 58,604 high-margin sales to the ledger.

The volume of both models pushed their respective builders above the bar set at the end of 2018. Without them, the year would have ended with a loss.

That said, it’s not like there aren’t longer-running nameplates with wind in their sales. The Santa Fe boosted its volume by just over 10,000 units. With a full year of sales under its belt, the Kona greatly improved on 2018’s 11 months of volume. Still, losses among Hyundai’s passenger cars (save the low-volume Ioniq and Veloster) and outgoing current-generation Tucson more than offset those gains. The Venue’s appearance came too late to have much impact.

The same situation can be found at Kia, which would have posted a decline had the Telluride not shown up. And not a vanishingly slim one, either (-5.6 percent). Only two existing Kia models earned a greater number of customers last year when compared to 2018: the subcompact Rio and perennially popular Sportage CUV.

The current year finds both Hyundai and Kia in far better shape then they were just a couple of years ago, and 2019’s showing has the potential to grow with the addition of new small-CUV volume. As for the likes of the new Sonata and upcoming Optima midsize sedans, they’ll need to move heaven and earth to sway buyers away from the likes of Camry and Accord. Certainly, the impending demise of the Ford Fusion, to say nothing of the Koreans’ wild styling, might work in their favor.

[Images: Hyundai, Kia Motors]

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