Hyundai this month will ramp up production of the hot-selling redesigned Sonata at its plant in Montgomery, Ala.
Dealers report severe shortages of the mid-sized car and also the redesigned Tucson crossover. Production of the Tucson, which is built in South Korea, was increased in March.
“We knew Tucson would be a problem because it’s global,” says Hyundai Motor America sales chief Dave Zuchowski. “But if you had told me Sonata would be a problem, I would have told you you’re crazy.”
Dealers sold 18,935 Sonatas in March, and Zuchowski expected sales of at least 18,000 in April, compared with 12,406 in April 2009. The redesigned 2011 model debuted in March.
Tucson sales totaled 3,084 in March, up from 1,346 in March of last year.
“We’re out of cars,” says John Staluppi Sr., owner of four Hyundai stores on Long Island in New York. “No Sonatas, Tucsons — even Elantras are low.” May “could be a tough month if we don’t get product,” Staluppi says.
Zuchowski says the Tucson and Sonata are flying off dealership lots within 20 days.
He says the Alabama plant, which produces both the Sonata and Santa Fe crossover, is now running on 10-hour shifts — up from eight-hour shifts — including some Saturdays. The plant shipped 28,000 vehicles in March, the most in any month since the factory opened in 2005.
The plant was turning out about 1,000 vehicles a day on an 8-hour shift — 70 percent Sonatas. A 10-hour shift gives Hyundai about 200 extra vehicles a day.
In March, Hyundai added 20,000 Tucsons to the 2011 model year production plan.
“I think we’ll be all right,” Zuchowski says.
But dealers are pressing both Zuchowski and Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik.
“I told Krafcik, ‘Brother, your role is to get us more cars or we could be held back,” says Scott Fink, Hyundai dealer council chairman and owner of Hyundai stores in New Port Richey and Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Fink says it’s difficult to buy vehicles from other dealers.
“This is one of the first times that the lion’s share of dealers are selling cars,” Fink says. “Nobody is giving up product. This could be restrictive, moving forward, in terms of meeting our overall sales objective.”
Cherie Watters, general manager of Puente Hills Hyundai near Los Angeles, ordered 150 Sonatas early on. But while her Sonata inventory is in pretty good shape, she has only one Tucson in stock.
“No one was expecting this kind of growth,” Watters says. “Inventory never used to be the problem. Getting customers was the problem.”