Hyundai Monthly Sales Reports Now Include CAFE Data

By Charles Krome

I’m on a bit of a fuel-economy kick this week, and so, it appears, is Hyundai. The company is continuing to bolster its position as the industry leader in fuel economy with a notable change to how it reports monthly sales. Hyundai already had added a new entry to its sales tables to keep track of how many 40-mpg vehicles it sells each month—4,792 in January, a mix of Elantras and Sonata hybrids; now, it’s going to start including monthly data on its sales-weighted CAFE numbers as well.

Thus, for last month, we can see that the 37,214 new Hyundais purchased in January were able to achieve a sales-weight fuel-efficiency mark of 34.7 mpg. To provide some context here, the automaker points out that it’s most recent official CAFE level, for its 2009 model-year fleet, was 31.7 mpg. (Note: The industry usually tallies the figures after a given model year comes to an end; with a few 2010 vehicles still lurking on dealership lots, the official 2010 numbers are not yet available.)

The goal of this new tactic, per Hyundai, is “to provide journalists, policy-makers and consumers with additional data to promote more meaningful dialogue on the feasibility of future fuel efficiency targets for the industry.” But I’m betting the automaker wouldn’t be quite so forthcoming if it weren’t for the fact that its 34.7 mpg January CAFE mark is already just a few Elantra sales away from reaching the expected 2016 CAFE level of 35.5 mpg.

Hyundai is soft-peddling this achievement for now, but as it consolidates its place as the industry’s most fuel-efficient automaker, and as that becomes a more and more important selling point in the marketplace, this positioning is going to be worth some serious sales volume.

I think it also may have a positive impact on other automakers’ efforts. Ford, for one, has already begun responding to Hyundai’s new sales-reporting strategy. Check out this comment from Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, included as part of the Blue Oval’s January sales release: “Higher gasoline prices are factoring into vehicle purchase decisions. Ford Motor Company is leading the way for consumers with the best or among the best fuel economy with every new vehicle we introduce. We also have four vehicles with 40 mpg or higher fuel economy – Fiesta, Focus, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid—more than any other automaker.”

Of course, the thing is, when you’re talking about sales-weight CAFE numbers, it would take an awful lot of customers buying those cars to start making up for the half a million F-150’s the Blue Oval moved last year.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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