South Korean-based Hyundai announced it's making a big push in the commercial vehicle market, and published reports indicate it plans to introduce a van model into the U.S. market.
Hyundai Monday announced that it will invest $1.8 billion over the next six years to expand its research and development in the commercial vehicle market, as well as vastly increase its production of commercial vehicles. Hyundai's current global market share of commercial vehicles is only about 2.1%. It is reported to be aiming at both developed and developing markets.
According to a published reports from Reuters and other sources, Hyundai, in a statement on Monday, also said it plans to introduce "premium models in North America and Europe." However, no other details or a time frame were forthcoming.
Hyundai recently started making heavy-duty trucks and tractors for the local market, but it's unlikely we would see a global-style Class 8 tractor here.
However, cargo vans are another story. The U.S. market has seen increasing popularity of Euro-style cargo vans, with models such as the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster joining Daimler's Sprinter. Last fall at the bi-annual IAA commercial vehicle show in Germany, Hyundai unveiled its H350 light commercial vehicles, which it plans to start building in Turkey in March to enter the Western European market.
At the time the H350 was introduced, Autoblog reported that it looked unlikely the van would arrive on U.S. shores. "While a heck of a vehicle, this isn't anything we are seriously considering right now for the U.S. market," Jim Trainor, Hyundai Motor America's national manager of product public relations, told Autoblog.
However, that may have changed.
It's not the first time Hyundai has tried to enter the U.S. market with a commercial vehicle. In the late '90s, a company named Bering tried to manufacture and import a new line of Class 3-8 commercial trucks in partnership with Hyundai. Bering combined Hyundai's commercial vehicle platforms with U.S.-made drivetrain components.
That arrangement ended badly, with Hyundai claiming Bering was unable to meet its warranty, parts and other obligations and had problems paying Hyundai for truck shipments. Bering said it was forced to shut down when Hyundai bailed out of its agreement with Bering in favor of an agreement with DaimlerChrysler. Lawsuits ensued, and in 2001 Hyundai announced it would be marketing a line of Class 4-6 trucks in the U.S. However, Hyundai suspended operations at the end of 2003, citing the difficulties in being a new entrant in a softening and competitive market.