Hyundai America CEO: Bring on 'Cash for Clunkers'

The road has been bumpy for automakers, but Hyundai Motor America Chief Executive John Krafcik told CNBC his company is trying to navigate the potholes by revving up automobile quality. He also expressed strong support for proposed "Cash for Clunkers" legislation.

“Five or six years ago we set out to be the highest quality car producer in the world,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, “and we’ve done that a couple of years in the J.D. Power survey, passing Toyota in terms of initial quality.”

Year-to-date automotive sales are down 35 percent across the board, but Hyundai’s sales are down only 6 percent.

“Market share last year for us was three percent, and we’re at four percent plus so far this year. That’s huge in this industry,” added Krafcik.

He says the old perception of Hyundai as being of lesser quality is fading.

“Advertising is part of it, but I think the key part is you’ve got to have the products that are the best, and that’s been our focus,” he said.

When asked if the company is worried about fresh competition from Chinese automakers, Krafcik said it would be some time until they posed a threat.

“It took us 23 years to get where we are right now,” he said. “We’re the fifth largest auto company in the world, the seventh-best-selling brand in the U.S., but we still only have a four percent market share…So imagine how long it might take a stand-alone-startup-from-scratch Chinese brand in the U.S.”

One thing Hyundai is hoping for is passage of the "Cash for Clunkers" legislation, which would enable drivers to get vouchers when they turn in their gas-guzzlers and buy fuel-efficient vehicles.

”Eleven percent of American car buyers are putting themselves on the sidelines and saying ‘You know I’m going to wait to buy a car to see if this bill might come, because it’s an extra $3,500 or $4,500,'" said Krafcik. "That’s about a 100,000 sales a month we’re missing right now, so we really hope Congress gets this thing moving, because that could really stimulate the industry.”

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