Is Hyundai Considering Entering U.S. Commercial Market?
Investment in Van Factory Intended to Increase Company’s “Global” Presence
President’s Day wasn’t a day off for everyone, obviously. While us Americans were enjoying a slow day of house cleaning, Netflix, snow removal, and maybe some furniture shopping, Hyundai Motor announced a huge investment in its Jeon-ju Commercial Vehicle Plant in the interest of increasing production and perhaps importing trucks and vans to the United States.
Hyundai Motor will be investing $1.8 billion into its South Korean plant over the next six years, increasing production by 100,000. According to the company, the dough will be divided somewhat, with most of it going toward developing new models and engines and the rest helping increase production capacity and hire new employees.
While none of this should be particularly interesting since Hyundai doesn’t sell commercial vehicles here, one word caught our attention in the press release, with the company saying the cash will help “enhance its global commercial vehicle competitiveness.” Now, we’re not professional cartographers, but America is included on most globes, so we think it’s possible that Hyundai may bring its work vehicles to the U.S. sometime in the next few years.
If that were the case, the company would be throwing its hat into an increasingly competitive and crowded ring. Almost every current entry in our nation’s CV segment is new or significantly updated within the last couple years, including the Ram ProMaster and ProMaster City, Ford Transit and Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Nissan NV200, and Chevrolet City Express. Indeed, Hyundai would likely be competing in those segments -- the narrow, European-style fullsize van and the compact city van.
Can Korea’s largest automaker actually compete in those arenas? We wouldn’t be surprised. With value being a huge consideration for fleet managers, Hyundai’s low list prices and long-haul warranty could make their vans a tempting proposition. Their Euro- and Asia-market H350 van, unveiled at the 2014 IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany, is huge too, hauling up to 15 passengers or 456 cubic feet of stuff. The big Hyundai is also available as a van, chassis cab, or flatbed, just like many of America’s vans, and it comes standard with a diesel engine with up to 311 lb-ft of torque in those markets.
The biggest hurdle the company might face is getting people to take its trucks and vans seriously in the commercial market. It took more than a decade for its cars and crossovers to be seen as a legitimate, attractive option against their competitors, rather than a penny-pinching act of desperation. With Hyundai having no truck or van presence in the U.S. (although that might change), it could face a similar timeline in a brand-loyal and generally unforgiving market. In the meantime, Hyundai Motor America has made no official announcement about what, if any, commercial vehicles would play here, but we've got our fingers crossed, as more variety is never a bad thing.