MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
On the back parking lot of Hyundai Manufacturing in south Montgomery, there seemed to be just as many dealers as newly made Hyundai cars and SUVS.
The day actually got off to a siren start when Montgomery Police provided escort for the dealers who drove the new Sonatas from the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery to the company in south Montgomery.
This is the beginning of Hyundai's weeklong conference with dealers and service managers to discuss strategy. And part of that plan was to allow dealers to put the 2011 Tucson through the fire.
"It's fantastic. It feels like a sports car," said George Pelton of Roanoke, Virginia.
The whole idea is to give dealers a feel of what it is they're selling, hands-on experience.
From our view in the backseat, Pelton showed no mercy on the red Tucson he was driving. He drove it hard, tested the corners with sharp turns, all in a matter of 25 seconds.
"It's much better than I expected," said Pelton.
This is the first time Hyundai has had all of its dealers in at one time and this is Hyundai's first annual meeting in the capital city.
"This is great. To actually come to the factory and test drive.. it's different," said Marc Garvey of upstate New York.
The Korean car company is slowly but surely carving out market share in the U.S., jumping from 3% to 4.2% this year.
The vice-president of national sales concedes Hyundai has benefited at least indirectly from Toyota's legal troubles which by the way has about a 16% U.S. market share.
"These are good times for Hyundai. Our dealers are here and they're happy," said Dave Zuchowski.
For now Hyundai expects to produce around 260,000 vehicles at its Montgomery plant this year, still short of the 300,000 capacity but record sales in March have put the company in the driver's seat to attain that goal.
Hyundai unveiled the new Elantra to dealers Monday night but that viewing was closed to the public and to the media. Company leaders say it will be shown publicly at the auto showing in Los Angeles in December.
Even with Hyundai's good fortunes, the car industry is still very competitive. Two years ago 16 million vehicles were sold in the U.S. That number dropped to around 10 million just last year.