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Hyundai offers blind test drives

In the bag: Hyundai has resorted to wrapping the Sonata in brown paper bags.

Hyundai plans to wrap the Sonata in brown paper bags in a novel marketing ploy in the US

12 Nov 1999

HYUNDAI has devised an innovative way to eliminate any negative pre-conceptions in the minds of prospective buyers in San Diego, California.

Hyundai plans to wrap Sonatas and Toyota's rivalling Camry in brown paper bags and invite people to take both cars for "blind" test drives.

The paper bags will cover the vehicles entirely, excepting, of course, the windows.

"We felt if we bagged the cars so nobody could tell, there will be no pre-conceived notions," Hyundai spokeswoman Ms Donna Kane said.

Hyundai hopes consumers who test drive both vehicles will base their opinions on the merits of both vehicles rather than be swayed by brand names.

No plans are in place to repeat the experiment in Australia although Hyundai did clinic the recently launched Grandeur by displaying it without any badges.

Hyundai Australia spokesman Mr Richard Power said some of those who saw the car at the clinics thought it was a Ford, while others thought it was a Lexus. Most believed it would cost more than it does.

This is exactly the result Hyundai was hoping for as it attempts to dispel the general perception that it is a "discount car company".

Hyundai's former undisputed status as bargain-basement king is now under threat as sales of the Excel are waning, despite the recent introduction of a $1000 cashback incentive.

Mr Power admits Hyundai Australia has large stocks of Excels that need to be cleared before the all-new Accent makes its debut next year.

The Accent was expected to be introduced next January but an April or May launch is now more likely.

However, Mr Power said this would not pose any problems for Hyundai Australia.

"We never locked in a date for the launch of the Accent - we've always kept it quite open," he said.

The Accent will be bigger than the current Excel and, accordingly, its price is likely to rise to $14,990.

Hyundai plans to fill the void left by the demise of the $13,990 Excel by introducing a new minicar to rival the Daewoo Matiz and Daihatsu Sirion.

The Accent should gain plenty of exposure next year as Hyundai will use a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, all-wheel drive version to contest outright honours in the World Rally Championship.

The rally car will compete in 12 of the 16 rounds and is expected to make its debut in the Swedish Rally in February. Hyundai is currently in contention for F2 honours with its Coupe in this year's World Rally Championship.

Another initiative to boost the brand's image here will be the inception of the Hyundai Precision Driving Team early next year.

The stunt-driving quartet - formerly known as the Holden Precision Driving Team - will pilot 2.5-litre V6 Sonatas in lieu of the V8 Commodores used previously.

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