Hyundai Alabama plant records sharp spike in SUV production

Hyundai Alabama plant records sharp spike in SUV production
The all-new 2019 Santa Fe joined the production lineup at Hyundai's Alabama assembly plant in May 2018. (Hyundai)

Hyundai’s Alabama plant ramped up production of its Santa Fe SUV line during 2018, as the company set new records for overall SUV sales throughout the year.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama said its workers built more than 88,000 SUVs last year, a 51 percent increase from 2017. Total output, which includes Elantra and Sonata sedans, topped 322,000 vehicles.

In June, the Montgomery plant unveiled the redesigned 2019 Santa Fe SUV, part of Hyundai’s increased focus on the segment that is popular with U.S. buyers.

Also, Hyundai Motor America reported the best December sales month in company history.

“Hyundai had a strong close to the year, setting our December sales total record and increasing retail sales for the year,” said John Cook, director, Sales Operations, Hyundai Motor America. “In 2018 we focused on reinventing and expanding our SUV lineup and customers responded in the second half of the year with SUV retail mix exceeding 50 percent for the first time in December.

“These vehicles, along with our diverse car lineup, put us in a position to pick up market share in 2019.”

Hyundai’s Alabama manufacturing facility launched production of the all-new 2019 Santa Fe SUV in May 2018 with a ceremony for the first vehicle off the assembly line. (Hyundai Alabama)

Record SUV sales

Hyundai-branded vehicle sales increased by 6 percent in December, in large part due to the highest SUV sales month in company history of 35,058 units sold, a 42 percent increase over December 2017. This was the fifth month in a row Hyundai established a new monthly SUV sales mark, while retail SUV sales mix reached an all-time high of 53 percent.

Retail sales of the 2019 Santa Fe were up 46 percent versus the prior year, the company said.

At the launch of the redesigned model in Montgomery last summer, Hyundai officials touted advanced features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist to warn drivers if a car is approaching when they exit the vehicle and Rear Occupant Alert to remind drivers to check the rear seats when exiting the vehicle.

The vehicle’s bold new look is highlighted by Hyundai’s signature cascading grille and a composite light design with LED daytime running lights on top of the LED headlights. Premium touches include a three-dimensional instrument panel and contrasting seat stitching to convey luxury inside the cabin.

Elsewhere, there are improvements in ride comfort, handling and stability.

The new Alabama-built Santa Fe is expected to boost Hyundai’s sales in the U.S. (Hyundai)

Major contribution

The success of the redesigned Santa Fe is yet another win for the state’s auto workers, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Hyundai’s strategic vision and the skill and dedication of the company’s Alabama workforce have combined to produce another high-quality, innovative offering for SUV buyers,” Canfield said. “Their continued success in Montgomery is a major contributor to the vitality of the auto industry across our state.”

In its 2018 production report, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama said it built 88,513 Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe SUVs, up from 58,481 Santa Fe Sports in 2017.

The Montgomery plant produced the Santa Fe Sport from 2016 until the first part of 2018. That model went away following the redesign, and the plant now builds the Santa Fe.

HMMA also turned out 147,018 Elantras and 86,969 Sonatas last year.

Hyundai’s overall production in Montgomery for 2018 was 322,500 vehicles, down about 2 percent from 2017.

In late December, Honda Motor Manufacturing of Alabama said it produced a record number of Pilot SUVs for the second consecutive year at its Talladega County factory, as part of a total output of more than 356,000 vehicles, according to preliminary figures.

Mercedes-Benz also operates an auto assembly plant in Alabama, but the company has not yet released production numbers for its Tuscaloosa County operation.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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