Hyundai Motor America says it will miss its 2006 sales target of 500,000 vehicles in the U.S., blaming lack of inventory caused largely by a strike earlier this year in South Korea.

Chief Operating Officer Steve Wilhite tells a national dealer meeting in Chicago this week Hyundai will shoot for sales of 550,000 vehicles in calendar 2007, but he declines to estimate where 2006 will finish.

A spokesman for Hyundai says Wilhite told the dealers he doesn’t have a number for 2006 and that “we’ll just have to wait and see where we end up.”

As for the shortfall, Wilhite tells dealers he is “very disappointed,” but says Hyundai believes it is important to set aggressive goals, even if on occasion they are missed.

Hyundai also fell short of its 2005 sales target by 30,000 units.

A month-long strike in Korea this summer, plus the changeover to new versions of the Accent and Elantra, crippled supplies of the two small cars, causing Hyundai to miss its 2006 forecast, the spokesman says.

The revamped Accent was introduced in the second quarter and an all-new Elantra is nearing introduction in the U.S., with cars just now arriving at dealerships, the spokesman says.

Hyundai currently has a 30-day supply of the two small cars in the U.S., he says.

Sales of the bigger Sonata sedan and Santa Fe cross/utility, both built at Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery, AL, remain on track with forecasts, the spokesman says, although Hyundai would like to get more 4-cyl. engines from Korea for the Sonata.

“We could use more 4-cyls.,” he says, “But that’s had only a slight impact on sales.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com