Luxury cars, EVs to fuel Hyundai’s China, U.S. sales in 2021; Q4 profit jumps

Hyundai Motor Co said on Tuesday it expects sales in United States and China to surge this year, driven by the launch of new electric cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs), after reporting its best quarterly profit in over three years.

Hyundai’s holiday-quarter profit jumped 57% on more demand for premium-margin SUVs, but overall sales volumes fell 5% amid a broader economic weakness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The promising outlook is a testament to Hyundai’s big electric vehicle (EV) push. The company, which together with affiliate Kia Corp is among the world’s top 10 automakers, is soon expected to introduce an EV-only platform that will use its own battery technology to cut time and costs.

Hyundai, however, did not provide on its earnings call any update on recently reported talks between it and Apple Inc about an electric car and battery tie-up.

On sales, the automaker said it expects a 12% jump in its biggest market, North America, in 2021. Its sales in the fourth quarter ended December slipped 2% in the region.

“With our lineup with new models ready to launch in the United States, we aim to increase our market share to 4.8% this year,” Senior Vice President Koo Za-yong said on the call.

Last year, the company managed to slightly advance its U.S. market share to 4.4%, helped by sales of the Palisade SUV and Kona EV, he said, despite a 10% fall in sales.

Analysts expect a boost to Hyundai’s EV sales this year despite a global recall of Kona Electric due to fires.

Hyundai said it expects sales to jump 28% in China, the world’s top car market where it also plans to release the electric version of its Mistra sedan this year.

“Last year, Hyundai basically didn’t do much in China, while other automakers launched new models as the Chinese auto market saw a rapid recovery amid the pandemic … Hyundai’s China strategy seems to focus on electric cars,” said Lee Han-joon, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities.

Hyundai expects to sell 562,000 vehicles in China in 2021, and estimates sales in North America will jump to 909,000.