Editorial: Auto Sales

For the first time in 15 years, auto sales failed to top the million mark in a month last month.

So far this year, auto sales are down more than a million and a half from last year.

Toyota just had its worst month in more than 40 years.

Here in Ulsan, Korea, Hyundai Motor Company operates the largest automotive manufacturing facility in the world, employing more than 34,000 people and producing nearly 6,000 cars a day.

Hyundai is not immune to the economic troubles in America but increased sales in Korea, India and China this year offset downturns in America and the company expects a 5% increase overall.

Efforts underway in its automotive division should slow effects from a poor economy.  Hyundai added a plant in the Czech Republic and plants in Russia and Brazil will follow, joining ones in India, China, here and in Montgomery. Production facilities in growing markets help Hyundai's global brand.

A hybrid Elantra will hit the America market next July and a hybrid electric vehicle - a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle - is on the drawing board to hit the market in three years.  Both address fuel economy concerns.

The Korean currency - the won - is at a seven year low and just suffered the biggest one day loss in 10 years. But Hyundai's shipbuilding arm - the largest in the world - has three years of back orders so the company's overall strength should enable it to withstand the rocky year ahead.