Hyundai Motor plans to increase its US market share to 4.5% this year from 4.2% in 2009, boosted by new model launches and aggressive marketing, its local sales chief has said.

David Zuchowski told Reuters in an interview that Hyundai, the only major automaker to increase sales in the tough US market last year, saw a “really good chance” US sales would break the 500,000 unit mark for the first time in 2010 after rising 8.3% to 435,064 units last year in a market down 21%. Its share rose from 3% to 4.2% in 2008.

“The 500,000 number is a magical number for us,” Zuchowski told Reuters on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida.

Separately, Hyundai US chief executive John Krafcik told the news agency it was unlikely the automaker could match its hefty 1.2 percentage point market share gain this year.

Agreeing, Zuchowski noted that while Hyundai might gain a share due to a drop in Toyota sales in 2010, rivals General Motors and Chrysler won’t be as weakened as they were in 2009, when both went through federally funded bankruptcies.

Hyundai, GM, Ford and Chrysler are all offering $1,000 in incentives to consumers trading in vehicles made by Toyota which is currently enmeshed in global recalls of around 8m cars.

Krafcik said the duration of the current incentive for Toyota customers was “not clear” beyond the end of February.

He told Reuters Hyundai’s programme targeted only customers who traded in Toyotas and did not apply to consumers who owned Toyotas but were not using them as trade-ins.

“That’s a key difference between Hyundai and the others,” Krafcik said.

He added new products would be a key factor in Hyundai’s US success in 2010 it has announced that it will have introduced seven new models in the US by the end of 2011.

Before the Toyota recalls in the past several months, about 6% of trade-ins for new Hyundai vehicles were Toyotas, Zuchowski said. Recently, that figure has jumped to 11%, he told Reuters.

Among Hyundai customers, Toyota was the brand most commonly compared, he said.

“In the past few weeks, we have virtually not lost anyone to Toyota,” Zuchowski said.

The gain for Hyundai in the wake of Toyota’s problems, he said, was in the number of consumers who are seriously considering the brand when shopping.

“We are getting a jump in intenders,” Zuchowski said, “who before would not consider us” while they would consider Toyota.

Krafcik and Zuchowski both said the highly successful ‘Hyundai Assurance’ programme, introduced early in 2009 as US consumer confidence ebbed, would not expire until after 2011. Whether it would go beyond that, they said, no decision had been made.

The programme is a safety net for consumers afraid of losing their jobs, the report noted. In 2009, almost 100 customers returned cars through the programme which let buyers walk away from loans without a negative mark on credit reports if they lost their jobs.