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Hyundai to capitalise on new-model push by rebranding

Moving up: Hyundai would like to be seen as a more premium offering Down Under.

Hyundai wants to improve its brand image and bottom line by becoming more premium

13 May 2021

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) wants to lift its brand perception beyond the ‘driveaway special’ mentality that drove much of its sales success in the past to a more premium, more profitable business model – entrenching the Korean brand as the number-three manufacturer in Australia behind Toyota and Mazda.


Speaking to GoAuto at the new-generation Tucson launch, HMCA chief operating officer John Kett said that for the Australian outfit to affirm its voice inside the corporation, it needed to “demonstrate that we can still maintain scale in this country, more profitably than we have been, that reflects our product, and the only way to do that is (to focus on) the brand.”


“We’ve been a very humble brand and I don’t think we’ll change – we’ll never become an arrogant brand. What we need to do is to make sure the authenticity of where we’re taking our new ‘Imagine That’ advertising campaign is real.


“It will come out in our technology with respect to the way we present (the new-generation Tucson), it will come out in the electrification programs that we’ll run from the middle of the year when we launch the Ioniq brand, and you’ll see it in the performance brand of N, which we all can’t wait for – the Kona N and the i30 Sedan N,” said Mr Kett.


HMCA marketing director Kevin Goult described Hyundai’s new ‘Imagine That’ tagline as “about looking forward.”


“We’re not ashamed about where we came from but we’re passionate and enthusiastic and driven about where we’re going to go, and that’s where ‘Imagine That’ starts to come from.


“Hyundai is a brand here that’s well-recognised in Australia, by Australians, for the great product that we have … (but) how do we move the brand forward … to a point where we look at what our product stands for?


“There’s no better time for us to reposition our brand here than at a time when we’ve got 18 new models. It’s a mix of SUV, it’s a mix of high-performance, it’s a mix of passenger – what better time to start changing our business and talking about our brand in an entirely new way?


“We do need to be seen as technologically advanced, we do need to be seen and recognised as fun to drive, and I think we’re ticking those – proud to own and worth paying more for,” he said.


Key to HMCA’s brand-perception strategy is removing its reliance on price-focused vehicles and pushing volume in the $40,000-$55,000 segment – a traditional weakness.


“Prior to COVID, we had a lot of cars that were price-pointed – the driveaway pricing where the factory puts in from day one and the dealer gives up a significant portion of their variable trading margin,” said Mr Kett. “Effectively what we’ve done is remove that when launching our new cars.”


“I think we’re in a space now where our brand has to work a little bit harder, (but) I think it’s recognised for building better cars … we’re definitely growing up – exercising a little bit of commercial mindset, putting dollars in the bank so that we can brand ourselves.


“Hopefully the product is talking authentically across performance, electrification when we get it going, we’ve got some interesting roll-out of products in Q3, and our traditional mainstream products – fundamentally they’re good products. We just need to give them a little bit more edge out there and how they’re presented in the marketplace.


“You’ll very rarely see a white car in advertising now, you’ll never see a Go or entry trim – the majority will see our best gear,” he said.


“We still want to sell as many cars as we can, but we want to keep that discipline.”


As for the $40,000-55,000 segment, “it’s a real challenge for us, both at the top end of Tucson and the bottom end of Santa Fe,” said Mr Kett. “It’s like a vacuum for us.”


“We can sell as many Santa Fe Highlanders or Palisade Highlanders as we can build (but) there was no middle ground, if that makes sense, so we’re starting to see that as our next challenge – that’s where we want to succeed, and (new-generation Tucson) will help us get there.”


Which comes back to the profitability of the brand, and HMCA’s positioning in the future – both in the marketplace and inside the corporation.


“(Our) ‘18 in 18’ – (18 models in 18 months) – was a big undertaking, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and we needed to lift the pricing, to lift the profitability, so we could bring the next version of ‘18 in 18’ and make sure that right-hand drive doesn’t become one of those economic challenges for us,” he said.


“We want to be number three in the marketplace, we’d love to keep that. Doing it without a ute is becoming harder and harder, but we do it. When we go like-for-like with our competitors we hold ourselves quite well.”


As for the Santa Cruz ute, it’s definitely defunct for Australia this time around because HMCA couldn’t get the Tucson-based dual-cab built in right-hand drive.


“But I think over time, things will naturally progress to a state where (Santa Cruz) could be,” said Mr Kett.


“When I think about the billions of dollars that have gone into (Hyundai’s recent product rollout), the corporation is very sensitive to the ute – so sensitive they just don’t want to even talk about it – but they monitor it. So I can imagine it’s in the washing somewhere along the line.


“But we need to get this right, and for us, we need to demonstrate that we can still maintain scale in this country, more profitably that we have been.


“More doors open up when you can get a bit of profitability around the product.”

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