While most automakers are reporting double-digit drops in sales each month, Hyundai and Kia continue to swim against the current and maintain (or even increase) units sold. According to Automotive News, a significant part of their success is attributable to fleet sales – large numbers of cars going directly into rental and corporate fleets. During the first quarter of 2009 alone, more than 33 percent of Hyundai's first quarter sales of 95,854 units were fleet related. Rental car sales represented nearly 35 percent of Kia's sales during the same period.

There is nothing inherently wrong with fleet sales, but many in the industry see them as a historically-abused method to inflate numbers, an inaccurate reflection of actual showroom traffic, and a potential liability for residual values. "We accept the criticism that our fleet is up," Hyundai Motor America's sales boss Dave Zuchowski said when he addressed the issue. "But our retail share also is up and outperformed the industry."

Utilized heavily by the Detroit Three in the past, fleet sales are a double-edged sword. Automakers get a strong boost in sales when the vehicles are delivered, but then pay heavy consequences with an oversaturated segment when the cars are dumped back into the used car market. It will be interesting to see how the Korean sister brands will address this repercussion in the near future.

[Source: Automotive News - subs. req'd]

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