As If We Needed Another Sign Of Hyundai As Golden Child

March 3, 2010

On CBS Sunday Morning Show's "The Money Issue" edition last week, one feature segment was entitled, "Hyundai: Driven to Success."

In a showroom "crawling with customers" at Atlantic Hyundai in West Islip, Long Island, one hopeful spender bubbled over about how she'd put herself on a waiting list for a new Sonata. And CBS reported that while the auto industry was in a freefall last year, down more 20%, Hyundai's sales were up 8%.

Although, they reminded us, it hasn't been all peaches and cream for Hyundai.  North American President and CEO John Krafcik spoke of Hyundai's slow start 25 years ago. Then in 2000, they decided to raise the game, not just to compete in North America but to dominate. He went on to say, they began by giving themselves five years to achieve the top levels of quality.

James Bell who analyzes the business for Kelly Blue Book, looked back at the 1986 Hyundai Excel and more than implied that, when it came to quality there was only one direction they could go. "Well, it was a piece of junk in a competitive market like the US."

Besides retrenching, he pointed out, "They came back stronger, addressed their reliability and durability concerns with their ten-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which was a good, bold move,"

To take it one step further, in 2009 they told customers they could return their new Hyundai if they lost their jobs. And less than 100 were returned. (Which may be one reason Advertising Age named them '2009 Marketer of the Year.')

But Hyundai had seen this happen to other companies so it doesn't sound like they're sitting around popping bon-bons, high-fiving.

Referencing the current conundrum of previous fast-tracker Toyota, Dave Zuchowski, Vice President of National Sales for Hyundai Motor America said, "We are a very, very ambitious company, and we have huge growth plans and have for the last several years. So it has been a wakeup call for us, and I think for the rest of the industry."

And what else keeps them awake at night? CEO Zuchowski said, "We worry about vehicles from India, vehicles from Vietnam, vehicles from China that will be coming into this market."

And if that includes 'up-market', they seem to have it covered. CBS cut to Hyundai's new upcoming flagship, the super-luxo Equus, the car they'll throw into the ring with the BMW 7 Series, Merc S, and Lexus LS10.

A Hyundai that will cost $60,000? As Krafcik put it, "We stand for something different."

They'd better if China is peering over their shoulder.

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