DETROIT (AP) — Dave Zuchowski, the new CEO of Hyundai Motor America, says his mission is simple: recapture lost U.S. market share.
Under his predecessor, John Krafcik, Hyundai posted huge sales gains and captured 5.1 percent of the U.S. market in 2011. Then the company's factories couldn't keep up with demand and sales growth slowed. Market share slipped last year to 4.6 percent.
Krafcik abruptly resigned in December.
Zuchowski also inherits a legal issue. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Hyundai and sister company Kia had overstated gas mileage estimates on many of their vehicles. It faces lawsuits and an investigation by the EPA and Justice Department over the misstatements.
Zuchowski says Hyundai's growth a few years ago probably was a little distorted, boosted in part by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged Honda and Toyota plants in Japan and reduced availability of their cars. The market share fell when the Japanese automakers recovered. Also, he said, Hyundai plants in Georgia and Alabama are operating at capacity and haven't been able to crank out enough Santa Fe SUVs and Sonata and Elantra cars to meet demand, costing Hyundai market share.
Zuchowski talked to The Associated Press at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Here are his answers to three questions, edited for length and clarity.
Q: Do you see sales in the U.S. turning around?
ZUCHOWSKI: I see that as my No. 1 responsibility. We just completed a record year, a fourth-consecutive year of record sales. But we lost market share. It was disappointing but not surprising. As the industry recovers and grows, it's not necessarily good news to us because our production capacity has been relatively constrained on a global basis. The share performance was a function of a couple things. No. 1 is capacity. No. 2 is an aging product lineup. We had a slow launch cadence last year.