Hyundai’s latest Assurance marketing technique, which guarantees resale values on all 20111 model-year purchases, is already being hailed as the latest in a line of creative, zeitgeist-appropriate incentives. The one downside of guaranteeing residual values: well, people are free to draw their own conclusions from them. For example, it seems safe to say that the Azera and Accent should probably be replaced fairly soon, as their weaker resale values make them stand out from an otherwise extraordinarily consistent lineup. What’s that you say? The new Accent was announced at the same time as the resale guarantee? And an attractive new Azera replacement will be launched within a (the?) year? Er, carry on then.
In all seriousness, whenever Hyundai comes out with a new “Assurance” program, I’m sure a number of other brands look at copying elements. The genius of this latest program, however, is that it only really works if your entire lineup has been updated in a recent and consistent manner. Imagine a chart like this for certain other brands, and you’ll realize that the benefits of a strong and (possibly more importantly) consistent product line can be far reaching indeed.
Hyundai has received a lot of attention recently for improvements in its product lineup, but as TTAC has proved, it’s actually the brand’s non-product innovations that can be most closely tied to its recent success. Hyundai’s biggest sales growth in the US market has come on the heels of its 100k mile warranty and its Assurance buy-back program, rather than the introduction of any new car. And so, although Hyundai has revealed its new Accent (which we already showed you), the big Hyundai news coming out of New York is the brand’s latest Assurance feat: a trade-in value guarantee. The program rolls out in May, and Hyundai USA CEO John Krafcik tells the DetN that
Depreciation is a big unknown. It’s like giving one of the big benefits of leasing, but you’re still owning the car. We’re already one of the highest brands in loyalty, and we think this will help.
It certainly can’t hurt.
Since GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre began firing holdover executives, starting with former CEO Fritz Henderson, TTAC has argued that VP for Marketing Susan Docherty is a prime example of a GM lifer who “owes her career to GM’s timid and inept culture.” Having already lost the Sales VP position to GM’s rising star Mark Reuss, “leaving Docherty time to focus on the marketing side and polish up her resumé,” we figured she was on her way out. And sure enough, several embarrassments later, the announcement came today. What we didn’t expect: that former Hyundai “Marketer of the year” Joel Ewanick would replace her.
NPR reports that Hyundai’s Assurance Plan, which is widely credited for much of that automaker’s success since the financial meltdown, has been taken advantage of fewer thn 100 times since it was instituted a year ago. In that time, Hyundai has sold over 435k vehicles, meaning the program has cost surprisingly little. Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafic explains:
we treat it almost like a kind of insurance, a kind of social insurance, so we had to make some, you know, financial set-aside for it. And in the end, it ended up being substantially below what our expectations were, thank goodness.
According to Krafic, the program took only 37 days to implement. [Hat Tip: ClutchCarGo]
This graph of Hyundai’s market since 1993 is a refreshing antidote to yesterday’s depressing Detroit market share picture. And it doesn’t take a whiz kid to deduce the single most important factor in Hyundai’s success. Notice a bit of an uptick starting in 1998? That was the year Hyundai introduced its 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty. It’s been suggested before on these pages that GM should address its “perception gap” with meaningful improvements in warranty coverage rather than more talk. After all, if it could fix Hyundais weak 1990s-era rep, it couldn’t hurt The General’s. This seems to be conclusive proof that warranties matter as much as the products they cover. After all, what good are a few extra horsepower or more interior room to a consumer compared to insulation from risk?