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Hyundai Getz optimistic about new models

Upmarket feel: Indian-sourced Hyundai i20 is consistently outsold by its cheaper Getz sibling by three to one.

Volume-selling i10 now off Hyundai’s agenda as brand moves upmarket

22 Mar 2011

IMPORTING the diminutive, Indian-built i10 light car to Australia appears to be a plan B strategy for Hyundai, which on Sunday unveiled plans to launch four new models by the end of the year – none of which are a direct replacement for the brand’s second-best selling model, the Getz light car, which has already ceased production.

The classy new light-segment Accent and small Elantra sedans, Euro-centric i40 wagon and the radical Veloster coupe all serve to take Hyundai’s brand image upmarket, which would render the i10 budget runabout a bit of a misfit in the repositioned range.

However, the fact remains that having no direct Getz replacement poses the risk of losing light-segment market share and overall sales volume in the short to medium term.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) senior manager for product planning Roland Rivero told GoAuto: “It’s always a balancing act between our desires for market share as well as the brand and volume.

“Effectively Getz ended production in December but we have a lot of stock and anticipate that by about midyear we’ll run out. After that, our light car strategy will be that of the i20 and the new Accent.”

HMCA director of marketing Oliver Mann added: “We’ve got other priorities (over i10). We have a wide global range of brand-new models that are relevant to the Australian market and we’re concentrating on bringing those in this year.”

1 center imageFrom top: The new Accent, Elantra, i40, Veloster. Bottom: HMCA senior manager for product planning Roland Rivero.

Racking up over 21,000 sales last year, the Getz consistently outsells its more expensive, Indian-sourced i20 sibling by three to one and with the South Korean-built Accent being pitched as a premium product – that will no doubt be commensurately priced – it is hard to imagine the two combined achieving Getz-like sales volume.

In addition, as GoAuto has reported, light-sized sedans account for a small percentage of the segment in Australia.

For example, the short-lived Mazda2 sedan made up just 10 per cent of all Mazda2 sales, although Ford is pushing ahead with its booted Fiesta and Nissan believes that the market for light sedans will grow over the next five years – which bodes well for the Accent.

Mr Rivero concurs: “At this stage, we anticipate that the joint Accent and i20 combination is still going to do very well for us in the light car segment and pull some buyers in that Getz wasn’t able to do.

“The end result is that we are able to maintain market share in the light sector and offer good value for money.”

Hyundai’s top seller, the i30 small hatch, of which just under 30,000 units were sold in Australia last year is also due to receive a new sedan sibling in the Elantra.

In contrast to the existing Elantra, a slow seller from the brand’s back catalogue, the stylish all-new model stands a better chance of offsetting the effect of losing the Getz by offering a genuine alternative to the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Holden Cruze sedans.

The good news for Hyundai is that for brands offering both sedan and hatch body styles in the small segment, sales tend to be split roughly 50:50, while Holden’s Cruze has met with great success so far in sedan-only format.

If the Elantra is met with anything close to the runaway success of its i30 sibling, it will provide potent ammunition for Hyundai to dominate the small-car segment or at least catch up with the likes of Mazda and Toyota, each of which had at least a 10,000-unit advantage in the small segment over the ambitious South Korean brand last year.

Part of Hyundai’s new brand direction is what it calls ‘modern premium’ so to lose a bargain-basement product like the Getz while adding classy new models to the line-up is a step in the right direction in terms of brand perception.

Similarly, to bring the low-end i10 into the range could prove damaging for a brand that is fighting hard to compete on a level playing field with Japanese and European rivals while shaking off the cheap-and-cheerful image forged with the Excel.

Luckily for Hyundai, if the new models fail to achieve the required volumes, the company is able to act quickly to import the i10.

HMCA senior manager for PR and events Ben Hershman told GoAuto that the company “could bring it in within a short space of time if we decided to or needed to”.

“We’re in a fortunate position with i10 in that it’s sourced out of India, as is our i20. I think we’ll make a decision along with HMC in India if the time is right to bring i10,” he said.

That said, product planner Mr Rivero does not see the i10 as a direct Getz replacement in the light-car segment, instead categorising it along with sub-light contenders like the Suzuki Alto, Holden Barina Spark and Nissan Micra. The i10 would therefore mean breaking into a new market for Hyundai.

“At the moment we are studying the feasibility of the i10 but as much as I’d like to bring it in, I wouldn’t want to do so unless it is the right price and at this stage that’s still under negotiation,” he said.

Internationally, Hyundai’s efforts to raise its game are paying off as it takes large strides in terms of brand recognition. Mr Mann explained that Interbrand, the world’s leading brand consultancy suggests that Hyundai as a brand is now worth over $US5 billion, making it the 65th most valuable brand in the world today, fifth among the volume car brands.

This echoes Hyundai’s position as fifth-largest global automotive brand by sales volume in 2010, ahead of Nissan and just behind Chevrolet – up from seventh place five years ago.

In addition, according to JD Power and Associates’ recent vehicle dependability study of cars three years old, Hyundai improved by three places in 2011, attaining third position among the volume brands.

Mr Mann said that Hyundai’s goal is to become the automotive brand most appreciated by its customers.

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