May 01 2012
|more articles from|
Making a marque
Korean car maker Hyundai reported its best-ever sales in the Middle East in 2011. Tom Lee, the Company's regional managing director, says the performance owes much to improved brand perception
The main factor was shifting our prime focus to quality and design, and then communicating this to consumers. I believe our brand image is the strongest it has ever been. Our cars have been winning awards all over the world and people in the Middle East have taken notice.
Another factor is our 'Modern Premium' concept - where Hyundai cars have an attractive exterior and interior design and are loaded with features not normally found in our competitor's cars. I believe we will maintain success by focusing on quality first, rather than trying to grow too quickly. Eventually everything else will fall into place.
It is a big market and we have three established distributors [Almajdouie Motors in Dammam, Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors in Jeddah and the Wallan Establishment in Riyadh] who have worked very hard to ensure the brand name is promoted thoroughly.
The Middle East is our fifth biggest market worldwide, and one of the most important in terms of potential for continued growth. We are currently second in total sales, and in 2011 we recorded the highest total sales ever in the region. Consequently Hyundai has made it a top priority to focus on improving awareness of the brand name and quality in the region.
How can Hyundai enhance regional brand perception?
I believe our brand image has come a very long way. Our cars are winning some of the most prestigious global awards, including in the Middle East. Customers are always pleasantly surprised by the quality and value of our cars, so much so that [global marketing information services firm] J D Power Associates recently named Hyundai the top manufacturer in terms of customer loyalty.
What are your regional business expectations for 2012?
Our sales figures in the first two months of the year far exceeded expectations, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year pans out. We are very optimistic as always and it is a great time for Hyundai in the Middle East. We expect regional growth to continue, with the main drivers being Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Jordan and Iraq. These markets have a large demand from the industrial sector. We also believe there is a variety of demand for different vehicles. Since Hyundai has a varied line up - small cars, mid-size and luxury vehicles - we believe we can cater quite efficiently for these markets.
What new models does Hyundai plan to launch in the region this year?
We will see the launch of the face lifted Genesis Coupe [launched 23 April], the face lifted i30 as well as a new SUV [sports utility vehicle].
What is your typical customer profile in the region?
Hyundai's award winning line up suits varied customer needs. These include compact vehicles such as the Elantra (which recently won the North American Car of the Year Award); mid- and large-sized vehicles like the Sonata and the Azera; SUVs like the Tucson and Sante Fe; and luxury vehicles such as the Genesis and the Centennial.
How do Middle East consumer tastes differ to those in other markets such as South Korea or Europe?
Consumers in the region are not as sensitive to gasoline prices. SUVs are also popular in the Middle East since the terrain is suitable for such vehicles. The opposite is seen in South Korea and Europe.
How important is R&D when developing a product for the regional market?
Our R&D centre [in Korea] receives regular feedback from Middle East customers to ensure their needs are at the top of the research focus list when developing new vehicles - in particular ensuring vehicle specifications are precisely what the region requires. In this regard Hyundai's vehicles go through vigorous - and repeated - testing in numerous situations to ensure that the vehicles pass strict quality test.
© The Gulf 2012
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.