Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and Kia Motors Corp. both have appointed special taskforces to turn their sales picture in China around and end seven months of back-to-back declines, Ward’s learns.

The taskforces operate out of the Hyundai Automotive Group headquarters in Seoul, but are entirely autonomous.

The Hyundai team includes Beijing Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. President Noh Jae-man and Hyundai Vice Chairman Seoul Young-heun, who heads up China operations.

Hyundai’s year-to-date sales in China are off 18.2% from like-2006 at 128,587 units, a company spokesman confirms.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reports total Chinese sales in July were up 36.5% to 457,200 units. Total car sales in China rose 23.7% in the year’s first seven months to 3.54 million units.

In 2006, Hyundai’s car sales in China totaled 290,088 units, averaging more than 24,000 vehicles per month. But the auto maker has yet to break the 20,000-unit mark for any month this year, and its deliveries have declined so much that it is no longer among the top 10 auto makers in China as ranked by car sales.

Meanwhile, Kia’s Chinese sales year-to-date are down 17.6% to 64,937 units.

Hyundai recently announced a second round of price cuts to combat dwindling sales. The auto maker first slashed prices in May on the Sonata by RMB10,000 ($1,325) and on the Avante/Elantra by RMB7,000–RMB8,000 ($928–$1,060).

The second round of reductions lowers the price for the Avante/Elanta by an additional RMB14,000–RMB15,000 ($1,855–$1,988). The Accent’s price is being cut by RMB5,000–RMB8,100 ($663–$1,073) and the EF Sonata’s price is slashed by RMB16,000 ($2,120).

“Competition in China is tough,” a Hyundai spokesman says. “We decided we had to take part in the price-cutting spree because we don’t want to lose the market.

“Be sure when our second factory goes into production in May (of) next year and brings the new Chinese Elantra to the market, we will have the numbers we want,” he says.

The Hyundai taskforce is focusing on the areas of marketing, research and development, procurement and production.

Kia’s team has yet to make a decision on whether to cut vehicle prices, a company source says.

“(The taskforce) just finalized a mid- to long-term plan for China,” he says.

There has been no change in the auto maker’s plan to bring a second plant into production this October, he adds.

“The plant will begin producing the new ’08 Cerato, modified to appeal to the China market.”

While Hyundai recently reduced its Chinese sales target for the year from 310,000 to 260,000 units, Kia’s sales goal of 138,681 remains unchanged, the Kia source says.