Hyundai, once a struggling Korean upstart with a questionable reputation, will likely soon establish automotive history. The carmaker’s Sonata midsize sedan is on track to surpass the Honda Accord in monthly sales for the first time sometime in 2010.Hyundai sold 21,399 Sonatas in the U.S. in August, only 1,107 units less than the Accord. In 2008, the Accord sold 373,000 units and the Camry 437,000, while Sonata posted sales of no more than 117,000 cars.
But Hyundai has been closing the gap, with Sonata sales increasing to 17,836 units in July, just 5,100 less than the Accord.
Part of the reason the Accord is losing its edge as it ages. The current model was introduced three years ago, while the latest Sonata debuted in the U.S. early this year. Sales of the Accord have slid from 39,726 units in August last year to 23,032 in July and 22,506 in August this year.
The increase in Sonata sales has resulted in a delivery backlog. Hyundai is boosting output at its plant in Alabama where the Sonata is produced alongside the Santa Fe crossover SUV. Production of the Santa Fe is being moved to Kia Motors’ plant in Georgia, freeing resources for the Alabama plant, which has a production capacity of 300,000 vehicles a year.
The popularity of the Sonata is expected to continue to rise in the U.S., with the release of back-to-back new models — a high-performance version with a 2-liter turbocharged engine in October and a hybrid in November.