Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hyundai Aims for a Luxury Brand

Did you hear the news? Korean automaker Hyundai has its sights set on becoming a luxury automobile brand. Cadillac. Lexus. Mercedes. Rolls Royce. And now Hyundai? The name doesn't exactly have the same cache to it.

This isn't exactly new news however. I recall tweeting some rumblings about this very topic just over a year ago on January 12, 2011. They introduced a high-end Equus priced at $60,000 and marketed it under the tagline "New Thinking. New Possibilities." Unfortunately, according to Automotive News data, the company only sold a meager 3,000 Equus models - 3,193 to be exact.

Despite such underwhelming results in their new luxury line, Hyundai was not discouraged from its continuing down the same questionable path. The brand hopes to become a "aspirational" choice on the road by becoming an undefined concept called "modern premium." It's cliche marketing jargon at its finest.

Contrast this with Hyundai's very specific and defined positions designed to take the risk out of car buying. Hyundai "Assurance" meant longer powertrain warranties for its vehichles, protections against job loss after purchasing and guaranteeing the trade-in value for its cars. Hyundai was able to make significant in-roads into the American market by providing the its buyers with such assurances. The campaign was effective because the brand was specific in what it stood for.

But the "New Thinking" at Hyundai is very different from its very successful past thinking. It's a very obvious sign that warns trouble is down the road for the Hyundai brand.

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