If you want to make Hyundai and Kia crazy just call them a “group.” They really don’t like that because they believe that by standing alone they can further strengthen the uniqueness of their brands.
For the record, parent Hyundai Motor Co. owns 39 percent of Kia Motors Corp.
But the companies strive to downplay Hyundai’s more powerful position in the relationship. The brands insist that their sales results be listed separately by the European automakers’ association, ACEA, and the Association of European Businesses, which compiles sales data for Russia.
While I respect that the brands want to be looked at individually, it is impossible to resist grouping them as one because that really puts into perspective just how quickly South Korea’s largest automakers are closing the gap on their rivals here.
Let's start in Europe where Hyundai and Kia sold a combined 620,911 passenger vehicles last year, up 4.6 percent from 2009, according to ACEA. If listed as a group, Hyundai-Kia would have risen past troubled Toyota Motor Corp. last year in ACEA’s ranking.
Instead, ACEA’s year-end table shows Hyundai at 11th and Kia at 12th.
It was up to the media to announce that Hyundai-Kia had for the first time overtaken Toyota and luxury subsidiary Lexus to earn the title of Asian sales leader in Europe.
If Hyundai and Kia combined their sales in Russia, they would have passed Chevrolet to win the title of largest foreign automaker in the fast-recovering market. Hyundai-Kia sold 191,316 cars and SUVs in Russia last year, well ahead of Chevrolet’s winning total of 116,233 units. (As usual, no one challenged Russia’s national champion, AvtoVAZ, which sold 517,147 Ladas in 2010.)
Alas, the year-end ranking by the AEB tells a different story: Kia at third and Hyundai in sixth place among foreign brands.