More Car, Less Dealership: Hyundai's New Retail Program Shoots for Smoother Transactions

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
more car less dealership hyundai s new retail program shoots for smoother

Last month Volkswagen announced it had significantly upgraded its warranties and, not a week later, Hyundai gave word that it was making a big announcement on October 10th. As the brand with the most extensive factory coverage in the business (along with Kia and Mitsubishi), we expected them to respond assertively.

The gauntlet had been thrown down and it was time for Hyundai to remind VW who the world’s value leader was. What would the response be? One million miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage? Free hats? We were ready for anything and everything.

The announcement came and Hyundai is now promoting its new retail program, called Shopper Assurance, which allows you to schedule a test drive via the internet, browse dealer inventories online, and offers a three-day money-back guarantee. Needless to say, it’s slightly disappointing, but it isn’t all bad news.

Hyundai didn’t do anything wrong, per se. This simply felt like a missed opportunity to extend warranties and a middle finger to its rivals. Even creeping coverage up by 10,000 miles would have been an utterly ruthless move, reaffirming it as the one true king of Warranty Mountain — which sounds like an incredibly un-fun paperwork-themed ride at Disney World.

However, that wasn’t the news we were given, so we’re left to discuss Shopper Assurance.

Hyundai claims the program is a direct response to overwhelming disdain for the car buying process and part of its corporate promise to provide customers with a better overall experience. That’s a noble cause if there ever was one.

Essentially an online shopping service, Hyundai says Shopper Assurance thoroughly streamlines and modernizes the entire car buying experience. The event, held at the company’s North American headquarters, was big on its four tenets of transparent pricing, scheduled test drives, streamlined purchasing, and three-day money-back guarantee. Combined, the entire program is designed to keep time spent at the dealership to an absolute minimum without making the process more daunting for the customer.

“We expect this to be a differentiator, as our research showed that 84 percent of people would visit a dealership that offered all four features over one that did not,” said Dean Evans, Hyundai America’s chief marketing officer. “It is the future of car buying, and our commitment to creating a flexible, efficient and better way to purchase a car in partnership with our dealer body.”

Admirable and smart, especially since every industry analyst is claiming any automaker that doesn’t provide digital dealerships with wither and die in the years to come. But we’re not thrilled about everything Shopper Assurance provides. For one, you can already schedule test drives at any dealership with a physical store. But the thing that really stands out is the “transparent pricing” — which translates into “fixed MSRP.”

The automaker makes clear that all dealer websites will list fair-market pricing: the MSRP minus incentives and any dealer offered discounts. But that still means little to no haggling. While not necessarily a bad thing, we’re not sure this makes the best sense for Hyundai — an automaker whose chief claim to fame is providing exceptional value for money. But Hyundai thinks the future is in making things easier, a claim echoed by industry analysts.

“We’ve listened to our customers, and they want convenience and simplicity when it comes to buying a car. Shopper Assurance is going to give our dealers the tools we need to exceed the expectations of today’s shopper,” said Andrew DiFeo, chairman of Hyundai’s national dealer council. “With a strong lineup of new cars and CUVs, we expect that Shopper Assurance will give us a competitive advantage and help turn prospects into buyers. We are creating a modern purchasing process where transparency and convenience are paramount.”

Industry experts claim the next big thing in car buying is easy-to-use digital dealerships. Plenty suggest that younger generations will flat-out refuse extended face-to-face interactions. A little antisocial but, if it turns out to be true, Hyundai is wise for getting a jump on this.

Still, we can’t help but feel like Shopper Assurance doesn’t offer much in the way of genuine novelty. While the three-day guarantee (provided you kept it under 300 miles) is a nice touch, most reputable dealerships already have their own websites where you can browse inventories and get the ball rolling on a sale. But there is where Hyundai claims the difference will be made.

By providing a uniform experience between all of its dealers, it believes it can achieve improved customer satisfaction. Hyundai says Shopper Assurance should make it so buyers can complete most of the paperwork online prior to visiting the dealership — including applying for financing, credit approvals, trade-in values, etc.

The program will launch over the next several weeks in four trial markets: Miami, Orlando, Houston and Dallas. It will then launch nationally in the beginning of 2018.

[Image: Hyundai]

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3 of 45 comments
  • Tobiasfunkemd Tobiasfunkemd on Oct 13, 2017

    Bought a new 2017 Tucson SE Plus AWD in June. Did the truecar thing through USAA and went with the best deal. Almost walked out when the sales guy told me the truecar discount included the $500 military discount; I then used AAA’s truecar feature to show him the same discount as USAA, sans military connection. He pleaded ignorance and the rest of the transaction was quite smooth, most likely for fear of getting roasted in the dealer survey. Not the best dealer experience, but certainly not the worst. This was my second Hyundai new car buying experience; the first was for a 2013 Veloster that I negotiated via email from India, and took delivery of two hours after touching down in LAX. Completely painless, and sold me on Hyundai. I suspect that their repeat customers are going to want to haggle to feel like they’re getting a deal, but if the pricing is fair I have no issue with this plan.

  • JonBoy470 JonBoy470 on Dec 19, 2018

    I work with a bunch of millennials. Not the broke hipsters, but college grads with STEM degrees and disposable income. They come in right out of school, driving some hand-me-down crap box that they trade in after six months on something shiny and new. They do their shopping on Amazon. Even mundane crap they could buy locally for cheaper. They like the Carvana sales model. All on the internet. No annoying and time consuming upsell for useless crap they don’t need or want. No worthless product demo wasting their time demoing features they already knew about. In fact, no human interaction, except the guy driving the flatbed who delivers the car, because they figured out the entire sales staff at the dealer adds no value to the transaction. First brand to deliver that buying experience wins the next generation.

    • Volvo Volvo on Dec 19, 2018

      Wow what an old thread But to your point of buying mundane stuff at a higher price from Amazon or Ebay I would say that if your time is worth something then paying more online may actually be cheaper. I recently was looking for a mundane item (unsanded champagne colored caulk). I probably could have driven to several local hardware and big box stores hoping to find this item. But I knew I could easily spend 1.5 hours driving around only to find the colors available did not include what I wanted. So paying $12 online vs $5 in the store made bottom line sense. Savings in gas, aggravation and time. I am not a millennial but an early boomer. Regardless unless I am certain that mundane item will be available locally I am not going to drive around to theoretically save a few bucks. I also would be happy to purchase a car without the dealer "experience".

  • Alan GM is still dying. The US auto manufacturing sector overall needs to restructure. It is heavily reliant on large protected vehicles with far more protection than the EU has on its vehicles (25% import tariff).Globally GM has lost out in the EU, UK, Australia, etc. GM has shut down in Australia because it is uncompetitive in a global market. Ford still exists in Australia but is reliant on a Thai manufactured pickup, the Ranger which is Australia's second largest selling vehicle.The US needs to look at producing global products, not 'murica only products. Asians and Europeans can do it. America is not unique.
  • Duane Baldinger Ya my cupcake Mailman will love it!
  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?