Syracuse, NY -- Not long ago, there were plenty of cars made in South Korean to go around. But in Central New York and across the country, demand for Kias and Hyundais has surged, leaving the cars in short supply.
It’s a big difference from the 1990s, when Kia was new to the market.
“It’s incredible,” said Lou Bregou, director of operations for Drivers Village, which includes a Kia dealership.
Back then, Kias were a low-priced alternative to other imports but had serious quality problems. He recalled Kias rusting badly and the dealership having to go to bat for customers over warranty claims.
“Lots were overflowing,” he said. “Now the quality is good, and there is more demand than supply.”
Dan Burdick, sales manager at Burdick Hyundai at Drivers Village, said cars that get good mileage — better than 40 mpg — are in high demand, leaving very little supply. On a recent weekday, Burdick said the dealership had just two unsold Elantra models on the lot.
“A couple of years ago, we would have probably had 40 Elantras,” he said.
The dealership has 30 new cars of all models in stock, he said.
“A few years ago, this time of year, we would have been close to 200 cars on the ground, in stock, for sale,” he said.
The dealership is selling plenty of cars, he said. Last year set a dealership record, and this year’s sales are down just a little. But nowadays many vehicles are sold even before they arrive at the lot.
Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst with auto web site Edmunds.com, said Kia and Hyundai have increased their share of the U.S. market through tough times. In 2008, when the recession was starting, fewer than one out of 50 new cars purchased in America was a Kia. Today, that number is approaching one in 20.
Hyundai has a 5.4 percent share of the American market, Caldwell said, up from 3.1 percent in 2008.
Both brands have added American assembly plants. Kia’s plant in Georgia was completed in 2009 and has already undergone a $100 million expansion, said Scott McKee, director of public relations for Kia of America. The plant has more than 3,000 employees and is running three shifts.
Despite that, the companies can’t make cars fast enough to keep up with demand. In 2009, dealers for both companies had enough cars on hand to meet demand for 84 days. In the spring, that number slipped to 37 days on average for Kia and 30 days for Hyundai.
“We’re selling every car we can make at our plant in Georgia and import from Korea,” McKee said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Billy Fuccillo, who sells both Kias and Hyundais, said his stock on hand is enough to last 23 days.
“They can’t get cars to me fast enough,” he said.
“We have the lowest day’s supply in the industry, and many of our dealers are desperately looking for additional vehicles to sell,” said Jim Trainor, national manager for product public relations at Hyundai Motors of America.
McKee said Kia is well aware of the situation and is looking at its global supply to see if cars that might otherwise to sold in Europe or South America might be shifted to the American market.
Trainor said Hyundai is adding capacity at the company’s Alabama plant in September.
“So that will help,” he said.
Help would be welcome by Burdick.
“If we had more cars, we could sell more,” he said.