Battled by a series of recalls and dipping sales, Toyota is slowly becoming a shadow of the company that dethroned General Motors in 2009. And with Volkswagen's mind clearly set on world domination, it can't be good news for the Japanese maker that it also lost its top position among Asian makers in Europe, to Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate KIA Motors Corp.The two Korean companies sold a combined 521,369 vehicles in the first ten months of 2010, a 4% improvement over the last year, earning them the title of the biggest Asian carmaker in Europe with a market share of 4.5%. Meanwhile, Toyota's figures, including Lexus sales, dropped by 17% to 511,754 units, which accounts for 4.4% of the European market.
To their advantage, Hyundai and KIA have a more diversified range with the likes of the ix35 SUV, i30 and cee'd compacts, and momentum on their side, as all those recalls and controversy is costing Toyota an arm and a leg, not to mention the bad publicity.
"Hyundai and Kia have clearly benefited from Toyota's massive recalls," said Ahn Sang Joon, an auto analyst at Tong Yang Securities Inc. in Seoul. "They have also expanded their model lineups in European markets giving more choices to consumers."
Furthermore, analysts think that Hyundai Motor Group's sales may climb even more in 2011, seeing that it'll launch models specifically tailored for European taste.
Excellent North American sales are the icing on the Koreans' cake: Hyundai grew by 21% in the U.S. this year, with the Sonata spearheading the success, having a 64 percent jump in demand. And there's more to come with the new Elantra sedan, Azera mid-sizer and Veloster small coupe, just to mention a few of the debuts planned for next year.
Toyota, on the other hand, is on a downward slope, with sales dropping 6.3 percent in the U.S. this year. Nevertheless, we wouldn't be so quick to write off the Japanese brand yet as you never know what the future may bring.
By Csaba Daradics