South Korea's Hyundai-Kia group, with its ‘hungry' dealers and showrooms brimming with new products in new segments, eased past troubled Toyota Motor Corp. in 2010 to take the title of Asian sales leader in Europe for the first time.
The two Korean automakers sold a combined 620,911 passenger vehicles in the 31-nation EU-EFTA region last year, up 4.6 percent over 2009, according to the European automakers' association, ACEA, which does not count Malta and Cyprus.
In sharp contrast, Toyota-Lexus sales plunged 16.3 percent from a year earlier to 600,314 units. The loss of just over 117,000 unit sales slashed Toyota's European market share by a half-point, to 4.4 percent, according to the industry group.
Hyundai-brand sales rose 4.7 percent over 2009 to 358,284 units, bumping its European share up slightly to 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent. Kia-brand sales rose 4.5 percent to 262,627, increasing its share to 1.9 percent from 1.7 percent.
Underscoring the two Korean brands' rising popularity with European car buyers, their gains last year came in an overall market off 5.5 percent from 2009 (Click on PDF for complete European numbers, above). Including the two Koreans, only 12 of the 37 brands tallied by ACEA posted sales increases in 2010.
Toyota's image, which has long rested on a reputation for bullet-proof quality and reliability, was badly battered in 2010 by the recall of more than 8 million cars globally and about 2 million in Europe for safety-related fixes.
But Christoph Stuermer, lead automotive analyst for IHS Global Insight in Frankfurt, argues that Toyota's sharp sales downturn in Europe has less to do with recall problems than with a critical shortage of new products.
Where Hyundai and Kia continue to hammer out products specifically developed and tuned for European car buyers, he says Toyota has next to nothing in its pipeline for Europe.
Simultaneously, he says, the Koreans are aggressively developing a base of young, “hungry” dealers who believe that process is far less important than volume. Toyota, he says, has “not brought its dealers along with it,” and many of its points are run-down, low-volume operations.
“Toyota is falling much faster than Hyundai is growing because of the disaster [Toyota] has incurred on the product side,” Stuermer said. “Toyota hasn't launched any new product recently, and this year looks equally bleak. Hyundai on the other hand is constantly hammering out new Euro-specific products, attacking new segments and building up its dealers.”