Hyundai Still Trying Harder To Win Customer Approval: Part II

August 10, 2010

Yesterday we learned that Hyundai continues to earn the approval of savvy car buyers with the roll-out of another consumer-based program designed to educate Hyundai owners and save them money. The new program is simple: make all factory-recommended maintenance for Hyundai cars available online. The impact of this program could result in Hyundai owners' saving money on maintenance costs every year they own their car.

A Dozen Years of Trying Harder
Moving maintenance recommendations online is just the latest foray into improved customer relations for Hyundai. It was in 1998 that the Korean car maker decided to change its image. They had been known as providing inexpensive--and, some would say, cheap--vehicles to a worldwide market. This included the United States, when in 1986 Hyundai introduced a single model: the Hyundai Excel.

Despite an initial upsurge in demand for the Excel, Hyundai’s reputation as a car maker quickly suffered. Reliability issues surfaced and word spread that Hyundai vehicles were not reliable. Sales plummeted in the U.S., as well as other countries.

The turning point came in 1998 when Hyundai executives loudly proclaimed to the world that they were going to turn the company’s spiraling fortunes around. They put their money where their mouth was by investing heavily in improved quality through better design, manufacturing, and long-term research and development. Results manifested quickly:

- In 2003 Consumer Reports announced that Hyundai’s reliability was equal to top-rated Honda’s.
In 2006 Hyundai surpassed Toyota in J.D. Power and Associates’ prestigious quality ranking. Hyundai ranked 3rd overall, just behind Porsche and Lexus. 
In 2009, the Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan was named 2009 North American Car of the Year.  

Aggressively Earning Respect
Back in 1998, Hyundai took another significant step that had a big impact on winning the hearts and minds of consumers. It instituted a 10-year, 100,000-mile power train warranty for original owners. (Second and subsequent owners receive a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.) It was a clear message to consumers that Hyundai would stand behind their product. That, combined with a growing recognition of improved quality, a larger line-up of models, and cutting edge design, has successfully turned Hyundai’s negative image around, with a corresponding increase in sales around the world.

But Hyundai didn’t stop in its effort to win back consumers. It later brought in a 5-year Roadside Assistance program--at no extra charge--for all Hyundai vehicles. This was a further sign of confidence in its product. This consumer-friendly benefit continues today and is transferable to subsequent owners if the vehicle is sold.

The Road Ahead
It takes years--if not decades--for an international company to turn around a negative image. Hyundai has done exactly that by investing in quality and continuing to provide consumer-oriented support for its cars. Having one of the best warranty programs in the world doesn’t hurt. Neither does providing a 5-year road side assistance program for all Hyundai owners and even posting maintenance schedules online.

We can only wait and see what’s next for this up-and-comer in the competitive automotive marketplace.

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