SEOUL — As Detroit’s automakers shut production in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor cranked up its factories back home to ship cars to the United States, a move that is proving costly for the world’s fifth-largest auto group.
Hyundai ramped up domestic production to as much as 98 percent of capacity by late March, not only as the Korean market was recovering from a bad February but also because it bet on demand for Tucson crossovers and other models from U.S. customers, its biggest overseas market outside of China.
Hyundai shipped 33,990 vehicles to the United States in March, or 4.3 percent more from a year ago, according to company data.
While Hyundai is one of few global automakers whose production has recovered at home, its export optimism has been dampened by the severity of the U.S. outbreak, weak consumer sentiment that battered the industry, and as rivals have quickly moved to guard their turf.
Consignments of cars shipped from South…