By Lee Seung-hoon
South Korea's largest automaker Hyundai Motor Co. and its smaller sibling Kia Motors Corp. are aiming to roll out the Kona and Stonic compact sport utility vehicles in Europe this month, gearing up to take on Renault SA's Captur that has become one of best-selling small SUVs in the region.
According to multiple industry sources on Wednesday, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors will begin the sale of the Kona and the Stonic in Europe starting this month. Hyundai Motor unveiled the Kona in June and launched its sale in Korea in August. In the first month, the automaker sold 4,230 units of the Kona, outpacing 4,178 units tallied by rival Ssangyong Motors' Tivoli that had been the top-selling compact SUV in the country before the Kona's arrival. Kia Motors also sold 1,655 units of the Stonic in August, exceeding its initial sales target.
Hyundai Motor originally planned to launch the sale of the Kona compact SUV in Europe in August and in the United States in December. However, the company's recent labor union walk-out that disrupted production has delayed its sale in Europe by about two months. The Europe launching schedule was adjusted also because demand for the Kona in the Korean market has been higher than expected, causing supply shortage. The Kona are entirely produced in Hyundai Motor's manufacturing facility in Ulsan, Korea and be exported to other regions such as Europe and the U.S.
Hyundai Motor already shipped 1,638 units of the Kona to Western Europe in August and its sale in the region is expected to begin across European countries this month.
Kia Motors also shipped 3,368 units of the Stonic to Europe in July and 6,408 units in August. The automaker aims to sell 70,000 units of the Stonic next year.
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors have not expressed openly on rival models for their compact SUVs but industry sources noted that they may have set to challenge the Renault Captur, which has successfully lured European consumers. In Korea, sales of the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Stonic have exceeded those of the Renault Samsung Motor's QM3, raising hopes for solid sales in Europe.
Rhim Byung-kwon, vice president and head of international sales division at Hyundai Motor, said at the Kona release event in June that the automaker aimed to sell total 41,000 units of the Kona in Europe and the U.S. this year and 150,000 units next year. Globally, it aimed to sell about 200,000 units of the Kona next year, including 45,000 units in Korea.