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Hyundai bolsters branding activity

N-couraging: Hyundai’s sharpened Tucson 30 Special Edition proved that Australians like a sporty SUV, laying the foundations for a possible N version.

New N fast-car division, other models to continue elevating Hyundai brand power

21 Feb 2017


HYUNDAI is stepping up its efforts to raise its prestige and customer perception through a flourishing range of new models, a sharpened focus on lifestyle and the imminent N-range of high-performance vehicles.

While the South Korean car-maker has made significant inroads in recent years to boost the appeal of its growing line-up, the Australian subsidiary believes appealing new models in the pipeline and more driver-focused metal will strengthen the brand’s reputation.

Speaking at the i30 first international drive event in South Korea last week, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer Scott Grant said the company still has work to do changing public opinion of the 50-year-old H-badge.

“That’s our bigger and broader challenge beyond i30,” he said. “i30 needs to wrestle some of that responsibility on its own but the broader brand needs to continue to evolve.

“Our products have been getting better and better almost level-up with each model change across the board and our brand is lagging that development. There are many people who, to this day, don’t appreciate the brand or the quality of the product in my view.”

In addition to the continued rollout of polished new models including the new-generation i30, a key force joining the brand alignment battle will be the eagerly anticipated N range of high-performance variants led by the i30 N.

Mr Grant explained that the new go-faster branch of the company was not directly charged with the task of significantly increasing sales, but would serve as a desirability halo for the entire brand.

“I don’t think in percentage terms the N series is going to be substantial but it will be hugely important from a brand and image point of view. I think it will also provide the opportunity to bring some new buyers to the brand that haven’t considered it before.

“It demonstrates the company’s ability to develop that kind of product. It’s i30 N today and it’s other products tomorrow. It’s a really exciting direction for the company.

“It provides a level of excitement to our staff, to our dealers, to existing owners. It has many areas to contribute but I don’t think pure volume is the purpose of that product.”

When it arrives globally this year, the i30 N will bring up to 202kW of power and a track-honed chassis to do battle with the hot-hatch brigade – often said to be led by the Golf GTI – but will be followed by yet more pumped-up models that are still to be detailed.

Mr Grant said that details of the expanding N range were still a fair way off but an SUV was not out of the question and that previous sportier special-edition SUVs such as the 30th anniversary Tucson and Santa Fe SR had proved that the sharper versions work well in the Australian market.

“A sporty version of it is probably an opportunity for us. We’ve had a couple of limited editions that have been quite successful in recent times. With N we’ll have a better halo and perhaps more consistency across products that will state what that brand is all about.

“It’s that emotional characteristic that drives the industry for a relatively small portion of the volume.”

Outside the performance vehicle line-up, Hyundai will supplement its brand appeal with more up-to-date models over the next 18 months including a compact SUV for the competitive but potentially lucrative segment.

“This year we’ve got a substantial change to Sonata coming about May right behind i30, later in the year we’ve got an all new baby SUV codenamed OS that we’re excited about and then, as we turn into next year, we’ve got new Veloster, new Santa Fe, somewhere in that mix we’ve got Ioniq and there are other products after that,” Mr Grant said.

While rival brands of all kinds flock to the highly popular one-tonne ute segment, Hyundai is yet to lay its big pick-up cards on the table, but Mr Grant said the company was likely to enter the market at some point in the next two years and that HMCA was “desperate for it”.

“It’s been planned, it’s being prepared and I’ve heard some rumours as of last night that maybe there’s a move in that direction in the next couple of years.

I do know that HMC is taking it very seriously. A model code has been allocated to it and work is underway.”

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