“My friend at [Hyundai Motor Company] was as excited about having me sample the new Genesis Coupe as I was to slide behind the wheel. I finished my official Hyundai factory tour, stepped off the bus (within the plant confines) and there she was: the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Bewildered Korean tourists gawked as I was formally introduced to South Korea’s next big thing. They hope.
The basic idea behind Hyundai’s new Assurance scheme: if you can’t afford the payments on your new Hyundai-financed Hyundai within the first year of financial servitude, just drop it off and walk away. No debt. No ding to your credit rating. No charge. The devilish details might not keep the Charmed Ones busy, but they’re worth a closer look. For example, you can only boomerang your Hyundai if you’ve experienced “involuntary unemployment, physical disability, loss of driver’s license due to physical impairment, international employment transfer, self-employed personal bankruptcy, accidental death.” One wonders about the importance of credit ratings to someone who’s just shuffled off this mortal coil, but that’s just quibbling. And, of course, there’s a few Hyundai-shaped hoops you have to jump through even if you are dead.
Don’t ya just love marketing guys who trot-out terms like UIO (units in operation, i.e. sold cars) and say things like “We have seen both positive and neutral perceptions grow, and negatives decrease. So we have moved lots of negative perceptions to neutral”? Neither do I. Of course, I’m sure Hyundai Motor America’s VP/Marketing Joel Ewanick is, like most of God’s children, a lovable human being. And if you’re talking to Marketing Daily (MD), what’s a UIO between friends (sounds like something Morris Day would sing about to me)? But I digest. And here’s some interesting factoids from the Ewanick’s Q&A. “We know that 40% of those buying Genesis have traded in vehicles like Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. We know what their income levels are, and we are finding that people are gravitating from luxury or near-luxury cars to Hyundai.” MD reminds us that “since the sedan version of Genesis went on sale in July, the company has sold 5,127 of the cars, including 1,151 of them last month.” That’s far short of Hyundai’s targets, but a pretty good showing in a market so down it has to reach up to tie its shoes. Anyway, about that Super Bowl ad…
OK, so I’m not convinced this full-size sedan shootout deal isn’t important for Hyundai. In other words, America loves an underdog. And while there’d be a lot more love if the underdog in question was American, as the alpha dog in the cross-hairs is German, well, that’s that, really. And this whole tugging on superman’s cape deal couldn’t come at a better time for the Korean brand. While no one would cross-shop a Genesis against a 7-Series, never underestimate the power of making class-bound shoppers feel good about not being able to afford something better. VW NA was born of reverse snobbery– and abandoned that market position for MOR. If the Phaeton had been priced at $35 to $45k… Anyway, Hyundai’s also in tune with the political climate. By “going negative” on BMW, they tap into the prevailing “I hate fucking everyone” gestalt. And you know what? I want to drive one of these Genesis things. FAST.
Hyundai’s Genesis RWD luxury sedan was initially aimed at new luxury buyers, with a $33k starting price that sought to lure upgrades from the Maximas and Avalons of the world. But Hyundai VP for NA sales David Zuchowski reveals to Automotive News (sub) that this strategy has failed. “We thought the vehicle would be a nice interceptor vehicle for someone looking to move up to the first luxury vehicle. What we found out is somebody looking for the first luxury vehicle needs the (established) brand,” says Zuchowski. “Conversely, we are attracting more people from BMW, Mercedes, who are probably tired of paying premiums for the brands.” This year Hyundai hopes to sell 8k of the new luxury model, ramping up to 20k units over the next several years. “Genesis is not going to be a huge volume, but will have a huge halo effect, it will elevate the entire brand,” says Zuchowski. “For years, we’ve said we don’t have a product problem, we have a perception problem. The gap between what people think of our brand and what our products really are is as large as any in the industry.” This perception-gap complaint somehow comes across a lot more credibly from Hyundai then it does from the usual suspects from Detroit. After all, Hyundai has gone from being a Rodney Dangerfield punchline to a BMW and Mercedes sales thief in a few short years. Hyundai was considering launching a Lexus-style luxury brand with the Genesis, and though it hasn’t ruled the possibility out down the road, such a plan is unlikely given the Genesis’ apparently-strong halo effect.
Despite some, ahem, similar products like the Kia Optima/Hyundai Sonata, Kia Rio/Hyundai Accent, Kia Sportage/Hyundai Tuscon, Kia's Director of Public Relations Alex Fedorak says "the two companies' products are apples and oranges." In an interview with TTAC today, he outlined Kia's future product strategy. Kia is meant to be oriented toward youth, and sporty, with edgier designs, and more performance. In contrast, "Hyundai is more luxury oriented." Which is why yesterday Hyundai introduced the new Genesis coupe by doing burnouts on stage. What the heck? But really, the Kia brand is evolving – the next Spectra will come as a sedan and coupe. "In sum," Mr. Fedorak said, "we are going to be design led." Look, I love the Rondo, but that ain't no beauty queen winner.
Yesterday, in our Super Bowl car ad guide, we speculated about what you'd be seeing from Hyundai. No need for guessing: Hyundai went ahead and posted both 30 second ads online. Our take: they look pretty good. Very simple, easy to follow (especially if you've had the standard game day spirits), and effective. Hyundai is just extending the image it has already staked out: value. They'll sell you the same car for less money, or more car for the same money. It works selling Sonatas to Corolla shoppers, and they've taken exactly the same approach here. "S-Class size for the price of the C-Class." Then they tell you it's got 375 horsepower. No green nonsense, no claims of inventing new market segments, and certainly no streams running through the woods. Just more for your money. What do you think?