When the three row Hyundai Santa Fe debuted at the LA Auto show last November, I predicted that it, and its smaller Sport version, would be winners. Not only did the vehicles offer a lot of bang for the buck but also exemplified the concept that sport utility vehicles did not have all the styling and curb appeal as the old Helms Bakery trucks that used to ply LA streets—oh man, I can still hear that whistle as the rolling bread box rounded our corner. My prophecy has come true for the Santa Fe. Hyundai Motor America announced that the retail sales growth for the two Santa Fe models has exceeded 40% through June, highlighted by the sale of the one millionth Santa Fe in the United States on July 31, 2013.
“When the 2001 Santa Fe launched in the United States 13 years ago, not only was it Hyundai’s first SUV, but it was one of the first compact crossovers on the market – just behind Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America. “It was a bold move that paid off and helped position Hyundai as a brand that could innovate in design and package, not just value and warranty.” Prior to Santa Fe’s arrival in the U.S., Hyundai was known primarily for building inexpensive compact cars. Santa Fe opened doors to an entire new group of car buyers and offered them a new choice in the small crossover class. Entering the market with distinctive design, great equipment and backed by industry leading quality, Santa Fe soon became one of the best-selling crossovers in the industry.
The 2001 Santa Fe did have superior styling to the old Helms Bakery trucks, but its third generation is a quantum leap in styling and technology. Hyundai notes that the latest Santa Fe iteration is the first U.S.-market crossover with a two-wheelbase strategy: the two-row, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the long wheelbase three-row, six/seven passenger Santa Fe; thus, Hyundai buyers have vehicle choices they can grow with through various life stages (pre-family, family, post family). “Santa Fe has played a significant role in Hyundai’s success and growth in the United States,” Krafcik adds. “For many loyal Hyundai owners today, it was their entry point to the brand.”
Ever since its 2001 debut, the Santa Fe began amassing accolades–from being top-rated in the 2001 Vehicle Satisfaction Index from Auto Pacific, the first time a Korean brand vehicle lead in a satisfaction category, to being named in U.S. News and World Report the “Best 3-Row Midsize SUV” and “2013 Best Car for the Money.”
Another Santa Fe fact that many may not be aware of is that its assembly is done in West Point, Georgia, where the majority of Santa Fes are now produced. Previously, Santa Fe was built at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Montgomery, Alabama, where today Sonata and Elantra are built. Hyundai notes that this year it will build nearly 500,000 vehicles in the U.S., and sell over 700,000 vehicles here, a remarkably high ratio of U.S. production to U.S. sales.