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Hyundai Faces Branding Challenge

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SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyers Guide

Washington DC May 11, 2007; The AIADA newsletter reports that Hyundai's COO Steve Wilhite has seen the Korean carmaker's quality improve to what he calls "scary levels," -- and sales stall. It is clear to him that the company needs a new "big idea" to redefine its brand.

According to BusinessWeek, Hyundai is working to convince consumers that its vehicles are worth premium prices. Hyundai's quality is actually ahead of Toyota's in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study, and behind only Lexus and Porsche.

But only 23 percent of all new-car buyers last year even bothered to consider a Hyundai. That compares with 65 percent for Toyota and more than 50 percent for Honda.

The bottom line: Hyundai needs a new story. Wilhite is focused on repositioning Hyundai as an overachieving, underappreciated brand that smart people are discovering. Hyundai's new campaign, due out by June, is expected to include data about safety ratings, quality, and value pricing using a tone that agency CEO Jeff Goodby describes as one of "disarming honesty."

The idea is to create an environment, he says, where neighbors and co-workers of Hyundai buyers completely understand why they bought a Hyundai.