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Hyundai’s i45 is known as the Sonata in the United States and it clearly represents a big threat to Japanese automakers, if recent comments by executives from Toyota and Honda are to be taken seriously.

The latest generation Sonata was released in the US back in January 2010 and at year’s end had already notched up sales of 196, 623 units, which was a massive 64 percent increase on 2009 sales.

Toyota executives in the United States are clearly concerned by the speed at which the Korean carmaker is moving when Yoshimi Inaba, COO of Toyota North America, said in a recent statement to the Bloomberg Network,

“Sonata has become a very honourable contender in the market. We do have good respect for the model and these figures show it’s increasing quite a bit.”

There was even more praise from Honda’s Keitaro Yamamoto in Tokyo, when he told Bloomberg,

“We recognise that the Korean models are very competitive because of their good quality and affordable price. Before it was Accord verses Camry, but it’s definitely becoming Accord verses Camry verses Sonata.”

From the list of best selling cars in the United States this year, the Toyota Camry remains in the top spot with sales of 147, 469 units. The number two position is held by the Honda Accord with 137, 146 sales. Sonata on the other hand is in ninth position with year to date sales of 115, 014 units, but that’s just 32, 455 units behind Camry and only 22, 132 cars behind Accord’s number two spot.

I sincerely doubt that the Japanese could have predicted such rapid progress of both Hyundai and Kia, but they are certainly paying them some attention now and that can only mean more competition and subsequently better products all round for buyers.

  • Westie

    Good on ’em. And to do it with a car that is far from “safely” styled, unlike the Camry and Accord is even more of an achievement. We’re talking the Supersize Me Accord Yank, not the Euro, of course.

    • anthony

      Yes,the Euro is sold as the more upscale Acura TSX in the USA.

  • FrugalOne

    I think the Japanese are playing mind-games with the koreans and us???

    For mine the koreans have a LONG way to go, they are just buying market share

    • Sam 300TD

      I disagree. They do have a way to go, but its certainly not long. IMHO by decade’s end a Hyundai will be miles better than a Toyota or Honda. They will be mixing it with the likes of Audi and BMW for product quality with sales volume that will make most car makers green with envy.

    • Megamike

      Actully the Japanese have been worried about Hyundai for a pretty long time now. In fact a big wig at Toyota said Hyundai was the one to watch out for. That was years ago. Someone at Honda said “Hyundai is awesome” as well.
      If this is a mind game; its a mighty long one.

    • idlebrain

      I do know how intelligent you are from the previous comment about chinese car Chery J11.

      You called the car as the great value and the quality is on par with korean cars. And it is true if you haven’t tried korean cars since mid 90s….

      but the problem is …. it’s 2011

  • Martin

    The beauty of competition. Atleast Hyundai will give Toyota a big kick up the bum and get them to become more competitive, better value, and hopefully produce more desirable products. Hyundai have come a long way and they have a long way to go. If again the kudos should go to Hyundai once they overhaul the industry.

  • Jeff

    Hyundai now clearly makes better cars than Toyota and Honda. The Sonata is best in class as is the Elantra and the newly released Accent. Hyundai’s reliability has been stellar in the cars I have owned. Hyundai now has clear technological superiority over nearly all of the Japanese brands and are moving rapidly to dominate the sectors in which they compete. Toyota and Honda don’t have a single direct injected engine on the market and Hyundai is putting the technology in their entire line. They will now be tweaking GDi to further maximize efficiency.

    Hyundai is also moving rapidly to incorporate extensive use of ultra high strength and high strength steels in their vehicles by operating their own blast furnaces and steel mills.

    Hyundai worked closely with LG Chem in developing Lithium polymer batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. The technology is more advanced than NIMH and LG Chem is now the leader in the segment. When GM developed the Volt, they did not go to Japan for the batteries. They went to LG Chem.

    Toyota is several years out from bringing direct injection and lithium polymer technology to the mass market. Hyundai is moving rapidly to bring out this technology now. They will do a much better job than what GM did with the Volt also.

    Toyota’s Prius is about to get routed. I have the new 2012 Accent and getting a real world 50 mpg on the highway. If Hyundai puts a hybrid drivetrain into it, it would blow the Prius out of the water.

    Toyota and Honda won’t go under. They will always have the Japanese home market to sell to. They will never again compete on the world stage with Hyundai/Kia, however. Only another Korean war with the North is the only conceivable factor that will stop Hyundai’s momentum at this point.

    • Hung Low

      Toyota has been using a DI version of the Aurion V6 for a while now.

  • bruzzer

    It all comes down to the badge and preception of quality.
    Hyundai have worked very hard the last few years and the perception of quality is starting to come through and its been proven specially in america and europe with quality surveys.

    Kia still has 5-10 years to go i would say, their reputation wasnt very good at all before and on the last 12-24 months they had good designs and engine combination thanks to Hyundai.

    if it were my money i would spend it on Hyundai over a Kia, Toyota and possibly Honda.

    Mazda wins on handling and style but no on fuel economy.
    Im going to buy Diesel IX35 in the next month or so and been very impressed with it.

    my friend also owns a new a I45 and i sat in it and its far from boring, much better proposition to the camry which i currently own.

  • davie

    If I was honda, I wouldn’t be worried.

    Honda has the so-boring-it-puts-you-to-sleep market well and truly cornered.

    The next generation 2012 civic sedan is so devastatingly boring boring that Hyaunidai would be foolish to try and compete

  • Smokin’ Jo

    It’s simple Toyota. Sell cars that corner well, perform well and sip fuel. The Corolla & Camry have had their success and now the public are coming to realise there are better cars out there.

  • goodun

    I’ve just purchased a new Elantra after many months of research. I didn’t even have Hyundai on my list because ‘I was never going to own a Hyundai, they are buckets of s@#*’ After touching/feeling and driving the MD Elantra, I was thoroughly impressed. So much so that we have bought one!

  • O

    Honda isnt looking good here, the only car I would consider is the euro and that’s still hard compared to the stunning optima.

  • Ox

    Im wondering how is the new American Passat is going. Arnt they also gunning for the Camry

    • Faisooz

      True my friend .. however I think the price issue is a big obstacle , the passat is much more expensive isnt it ?

  • Yeo

    The i45 isn’t that popular in Aus though.. And there is a company which uses i45 for their fleet.. Not sure which it is..

  • john

    Honda and Toyota need to slash there prices and put a bit more kit in there cars otherwise they will be left behind.

  • Collision of Souls

    Honda and Toyota’s struggles are many of late. Consider each.

    Honda: The yen’s strength vs. dollar in the US is hurting sales, but far more than that is the refusal by Honda America to hire a design team that will pen an Accord, Civic, Pilot, CR-V, etc., that can compete. The Accord Coupe is the only vehicle in the line-up that had/has promise. Honda is in serious trouble and their designs display this reality.

    Toyota: Yen strength an aged design continues to hurt them. Remember the last gen Civic forced Toyota back to the drawing board for the Corolla? What came from that nearly year-long wait was a Corolla that was laughable. Toyota is asleep and their designs for the elderly are not cutting it.

    Hyundai/Kia is hungry and they are eating Honda and Toyota’s lunch. It will only get worse for the Japanese.

  • Bernard

    It helps when you got some folks from Daimler and BMW working for them. Those are the guys who didn’t want to wait there turn to be promoted. What better way to promote yourself…

  • Vins

    Yeah, Honda and Toyota keep on churning out boring looking car and they’ll lose market share even much faster than they could have imagined.

  • Faisooz

    Hyundai are now keen at making wonderful designs and putting them into production lines , and the story ends with this full stop.
    but .. when it comes to reliability and product quality , I say they’re still way behind
    Hyundai cars struggle in hot climates and have problems and faults as much as anyone can imagine
    many Hyundai Sonata 2011 cars here in Iraq had their sunroof slide broken the very first summer they’ve undergone , the rubber and the materials used can’t resist the tough climate conditions here .. many Hyundai Sonata owners here complained of Gearbox problems , AC system problems , electric equipment problems , after a couple of thousand kilometers on the clock at best conditions
    Hyundai may be leading now in terms of design and looks , but the Japs used always to have the last word in reliability.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1715760895 Charles Dean

    If you look close the sonata is a beefed up Camry design wise.. Specially the front end.. They’ve taken the Camry, chromed it and stretched it..

  • K1

    Toyota is a company of unprecedented size.. They made $235billion in revenue last year $235 Billion (that is a quarter of Australia’s GDP)

    Toyota is by far the largest Automotive company in the world.. To put in depth, it’s larger then GM + Hyundai group kia/Hyundai + another $40billion

    • Sumpguard

      The bigger they are the harder they fall. Playing safe won’t work for toyota anymore.

      Hyundai have stated that they don’t want to be the largest ,they just want people to love their cars. if they stick to that then they will become the largest anyway.

      • K1

        GM, Volkswagen Group or Hyundai/Kia might overtake Toyota in 2011, but that is only in volume wise..

        Toyota aren’t falling, they’re doing quite good considering all the sh*t they have been through lately..

      • Hung Low

        Toyota and other Japs have only been playing it safe because they can and did for the last couple of decades. They will stand up to competition if they need to.
        Look back 2 decades at the innovative technology they released when the likes of VW were low tech and mundane in comparison.
        Honda- V-tech engines, Toyota – Turbo tech & Hybrid, Nissan- turbo tech & Atessa Awd.

        We should start to see a change in direction soon with Mazda’s ‘SKY’ engines, Toyota’s FT-86, Nissan Leaf.
        If they stay the way they are they will be left behind eventually.

  • Patrick

    Hyundai will one day overtake Toyota in sales, even Toyota have acknowledged they fear most Hyundai than any other competitor