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Hyundai targets 12% sales growth in 'turning point' year of 2021

Automaker aims to be 'first mover' rather than 'fast follower'

An employee waits for customers at a Hyundai Motor showroom in Goyang, South Korea: The automaker's domestic sales rose 6% in 2020.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- The Hyundai Motor group forecasts a 12% rise in global vehicle sales this year as the South Korean automaker looks to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with a new strategy.

Hyundai aims to sell 7.08 million vehicles in 2021 after two straight years of declines.

Chairman Chung Euisun called 2021 the "turning point" that will determine the company's future in a message to employees on Monday.

"We will be fully prepared in order to become the first mover in this new era," he said.

Hyundai is shifting away from the "fast follower" approach in which it quickly produces its own versions of top-selling models. The strategy fueled Hyundai's rapid growth in the past, but it has faltered as of late.

The group sold 6.35 million vehicles last year, data released Monday shows, down 12% from 2019. Hyundai as a standalone automaker saw sales shrink 15% to 3.74 million autos, while group company Kia Motors logged a 6% drop to 2.6 million.

Coronavirus lockdowns in the U.S., Europe and India hurt demand, though both Hyundai and Kia boosted sales 6% in South Korea thanks to generous tax breaks for car purchases.

In recent months, higher-profit sport utility vehicles and electric vehicles have sold well. Monthly sales began to outperform year-earlier numbers in September.

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