Hyundai leans on big cars, key markets as it pulls out of slump

Hyundai's performance, which spiked during the financial crisis, has been lackluster in recent years. 

Hyundai, which became a critical and marketplace darling with product overhauled during the global financial collapse, has seen slowing sales in recent years. The company reported a larger increase in profit in the first quarter of 2019, surprising analysts and revealing an optimistic outlet for two key markets: The U.S. and South Korea.

Hyundai's outlook for both its home market and the U.S. is positive for the rest of the year, and the company has high hopes for its upcoming SUV offerings giving it back some of the share its sedan-heavy lineup cost it post-recession.

In the first quarter, Hyundai's U.S. sales rose for the first time since 2016 and volume in South Korea is its highest in 17 years. What's perhaps most important there is the country that is missing. China, despite being the company's largest market, is no longer reliable for Hyundai. Sales dropped 19% and hit their lowest point since 2009.

"The Chinese market is not in a favorable condition," Hyundai Motor CFO Choi Byung-chul told investors and media during the company's Wednesday-morning earnings call. The company has idled one of its production facilities in China (its oldest, according to Reuters), in order to curb overcapacity.

Hyundai is far from the only automaker feeling the pinch in China. Just about every major automaker has curbed its local-market production in the country, and U.S.-China trade tensions remain volatile, further hampering investment on both sides.

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