Hyundai and Kia Surpass Honda in U.S. Sales

While the auto industry endured a tumultuous year, 2021 was pretty good for automakers Hyundai and Kia. The Korean companies overtook Honda in U.S. sales for the first time ever.

Crunching the Numbers: How Hyundai and Kia Pulled it Off

The Korean automakers combined for 1,439,497 cars, trucks, and minivans sold compared to 1,309,222 for Japan-based Honda Motor Company. They also slipped past Chevrolet, which tallied 1,422,031 vehicles sold in 2021.

Despite a 15% slide in Q4 2021, Hyundai’s U.S. sales reached the highest level ever for the company. Car shoppers were making their way to their local Hyundai dealer to get their hands on high-value models like the Kona, Santa Fe, and Tucson SUVs and the 3-row Palisade.

Buoyed by sales of the popular Forte and K5/Optima sedans, Telluride (a close cousin of Hyundai’s Palisade), Sportage, 2021 marked Kia’s first sale of more than 700,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. in a single year.

But we’re talking two brands vs. one: is it really a fair comparison? Technically, Hyundai and Kia and the luxury brand Genesis are part of Hyundai Motor Group. And Acura is under the Honda Motor Company umbrella. So, if we throw Acura and Genesis sales in the mix, the margin shrinks substantially from over 130k to 22.4k. But a victory is a victory, and this is a huge win for Hyundai Motor Group.

GM Dethroned

Speaking of toppling juggernauts, Toyota Motor Corp accomplished what no other automaker has done since 1931. They overtook General Motors as the overall U.S. sales leader. On the strength of the Toyota and Lexus brands, TMG posted sales of 2,332,362 vehicles in 2021 compared to 2,202,572 for GM brands Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac.

The American automaker pointed to problems acquiring semiconductor chips as the main factor in declining production and sales. As the chip makers reopen the supply pipeline to automobile manufacturers, GM expects to regain its market share and resume its place as King of the Hill.

Trucks and SUVs Rule, But the Sedan is Alive and Well

So, with automakers scrambling to get parts to produce vehicles, what is the secret to Hyundai and Kia’s success in 2021? A lot of it has to do with their foothold in the sub-compact car and sedan segment. Most automobile manufacturers have abandoned the segment in favor of trucks and SUVs, but for the Korean brands, sedan sales remain robust.

The Hyundai Elantra and Sonata models accounted for 217,564 vehicles sold, while the Kia Forte, K5/Optima, Stinger, and Rio made up 253,150 sales.

Can Hyundai and Kia Regain Momentum in 2022?

While automobile manufacturers worldwide faced significant supply chain issues throughout 2021, Hyundai and Kia managed their supply of semiconductor chips through much of the year. Despite a dip in sales in Q4, a new crop of vehicles like the Kia Carnival MPV and the Hyundai Santa Cruz should keep driving bargain-loving buyers back to their hometown Kia and Hyundai dealers.