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The Kia versus Hyundai sales battle heated up in 2021. But which two brands came to spoil the party?

One of Hyundai’s best-selling models was the new-generation Tucson SUV.

Just a couple of months ago, Hyundai and Kia sales were neck and neck in Australia, making for a serious battle between the Korean sister brands.

Sales figures to the end of September 2021 showed that Kia was trailing Hyundai by just over 850 units – 53,316 to Hyundai’s 54,169.

The tussle was significant given Kia – supposedly Hyundai Motor Group’s “secondary” brand – has never outsold Hyundai in Australia in a calendar year, and was clearly ready to pounce.

But now, following the release of year-end 2021 sales figures, it turns out the epic battle wasn’t so epic after all.

VFACTS data released this week shows that Hyundai ended the year in third place on 72,872 sales, a 12.2 per cent increase on its 2020 results. It trailed Toyota (223,642) in top spot and Mazda (101,119) in second.

Kia managed a healthy 21.2 per cent sales jump over 2020, ending up with 67,964 units, enough to scrape into fifth place on the leader’s table.

Hyundai managed to stretch its 850-unit gap with Kia to a tick under 5000 units in just three months.

Not even the strong-selling Sportage could help Kia beat Hyundai's sales in 2021. Not even the strong-selling Sportage could help Kia beat Hyundai's sales in 2021.

That doesn’t sound like a huge amount, but given how close sales were between third, fourth, fifth and sixth place in 2021, it was enough for Hyundai take a decent lead.

In saying that, third-placed Ford gave Hyundai quite the scare. The Blue Oval brand ended 2021 with 71,380 sales, just 1492 behind Hyundai.

Ford’s result represented a 19.8 per cent increase over 2020, buoyed by continued strong sales for the soon-to-be-replaced Ranger (50,279) and Everest (8359).

If Ford hadn’t suffered significant COVID and parts-related supply issues for its European-sourced Escape and Puma SUVs, it might have been a very different result.

Hyundai also suffered stock shortages, specifically of high-grade versions of key models like the Santa Fe and new Tucson.

Ranger sales ensured Ford held on to fourth place for overall sales. Ranger sales ensured Ford held on to fourth place for overall sales.

But the company managed to increase its sales in October and remained steady in November, while Kia went backwards both months. That allowed Hyundai to extend its lead.

Each brand has models in segments the other brand doesn’t. For example, Hyundai sells a second large SUV (Palisade) alongside the Santa Fe, and a commercial van (Staria-Load).

The Kia Telluride large SUV is yet to be confirmed for Australia and the Pregio commercial van was ditched long ago.

On the flip side, Kia sells the Picanto micro car – a segment it dominates – and the Rio light hatchback. Hyundai no longer has an offering in either segment since dropping the Accent and Getz.

Despite generally strong sales, Kia only just held onto fifth place. Mitsubishi was snapping at its heels with a total of 67,732 sales, just 232 units behind Kia.

The Triton was Mitsubishi's best seller last year. The Triton was Mitsubishi's best seller last year.

Mitsubishi recorded a 16.1 per cent jump on its 2020 result, with every one of its model lines growing their share last year, except for the discontinued Pajero.

The Triton ute was its best performer (19,232), followed by the ageing ASX small SUV (14,764) and the all-new Outlander medium SUV (14,572).

While the battle from third to sixth place was close, there was daylight between Mitsubishi in sixth and seventh-placed Nissan.

Nissan upped its sales by 7.7 per cent last year to record 41,263 registrations, but it appears to be in a sales battle against brands in the back end of the top 10. The Japanese carmaker just edged out Volkswagen (40,770), MG (39,025) and Subaru (37,015).

Given MG’s meteoric rise and Australian expansion plans, there’s every chance the Chinese challenger will climb further up the sales ladder in 2022.

Watch this space.