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Reflecting on 25 Years of Milestones for Hyundai in the USA

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

On Sunday, Hyundai celebrated 25 years of selling cars in the United States. To commemorate the occasion, the automaker looked back to the days of its first U.S. models and forward to its future, noting all the major milestones along the way.

The first-ever Hyundai sold in the United States was a compact sedan and hatchback dubbed the Excel, which debuted for the 1986 model year. With just 81 horsepower and a standard 4-speed manual transmission, the Excel is laughably slow by today’s standards – but its starting price tag of less than $5,000 helped it become the best-selling first-year import car ever.

Soon after, Hyundai replaced the Excel with the Accent and unveiled the larger Sonata. But the brand was bogged down by quality issues and a poor public perception. Car shoppers viewed Hyundai (and its sister brand Kia, which debuted in 1995) as an unreliable, inexpensive substitute for Japanese cars and stayed away in droves, causing sales to plummet. Then, in 1999, a warranty was born.

Hyundai’s now-famous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year/60,000-mile vehicle warranty has come with every Hyundai sold for the last twelve years. A massive ad campaign for “America’s Best Warranty” helped restore Hyundai’s credibility and drive sales, leading Hyundai to its sixth-place ranking among car brands last year.

Over the last 25 years, the U.S. has been good to Hyundai, purchasing more than 6.6 million vehicles from the brand since its inception. Hyundai says nearly 4.4 million are still on the road. But the automaker’s relationship with America has been mutually beneficial, with more than 45,000 employees nationwide depending on Hyundai, which has invested $1.7 billion on U.S. soil.

After a successful 25 years in the U.S., Hyundai is now focusing all its efforts on the future. The automaker has set an ambitious goal of a 50mpg fleet average by 2025 and continues to develop new fuel-saving technologies, from direct injection to new fuel cell and battery systems.  

“We’ve always challenged convention,” said John Krafcik, Hyundai’s U.S. chief executive. “It’s authentically Hyundai to question the status quo and pursue our own vision of how things should be in order to best serve our customers.”

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Reflecting on 25 Years of Milestones for Hyundai in the USA - Autotrader