Hyundai Predicts Bigger Sales for '87 : Korean Car Unit in Garden Grove Sees Work Force Growing

Times Staff Writer

Hyundai Motor America, the Garden Grove-based American subsidiary of the Korean car giant, is beginning its second year in the U.S. market forecasting bigger annual sales and employment.

Since being introduced to the U.S. market in February, 1986, Hyundai has sold more than 205,000 of its popular Excel subcompact.

The company sold more than 18,656 this February alone, contrasted with 588 in its first month of sales one year ago.

Company spokesmen predict that the upward swing would continue this year and projected annual sales of 250,000 cars.

Keeping up with its sales, the company's American headquarters in Garden Grove is expanding as well by hiring more employees and spilling into better facilities.

Hyundai Motor America began with modest settings. In its first week of existence, company employees settled into one floor in a 170,000-square-foot-industrial building and tried to figure out how to turn on the electricity.

Occupies Entire Building

Now Hyundai occupies the entire building and two neighboring facilities.

"Two years ago, we started with less than two dozen employees working in a building that was once a waterbed factory," said Ted Kade, Hyundai public relations manager. "Now we've got more than 300 employees and hope to have 465 people before the year's end."

Kade credits Hyundai's sales to its good price--Excel's base price for 1987 is $5,195--and its full line of standard equipment.

"The American consumer demands a lot for his money," Kade said. "So it's not the price alone that attracts customers. We give a lot in a base car."

It has been a good year for the dealerships as well.

When the car company opened shop in the United States last year, there were only two Orange County Hyundai dealers, one in Santa Ana, the other in Irvine. Now there are five local dealerships, including those in Garden Grove, Costa Mesa and Buena Park that are specifically contracted by the company to sell only Hyundai cars. Hyundai has 38 dealerships in California and 168 nationwide.

"It was hectic when we first opened," said Gilbert Grosso, new car sales manager at Holmes Tuttle Hyundai in Irvine. "Thousands would come into the lot to just look at the new cars. It's calmed down a lot. Our customers now know more about the car and are looking for specific options."

Ron Petz, general sales manager at Joe MacPherson Hyundai in Santa Ana, said: "We just hired nine salespeople and put them through an extensive training course. We want to be prepared. The present growth dictated that we needed more salespeople."

The Hyundai is a unique subcompact and will probably continue its good sales, said Michael Luckey, senior automotive analyst for Shearson Lehman in New York.

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