Hyundai gets emotional
Hyundai has been chipping away at the company car market for more than 20 years but now has the product line-up and commitment to finally present a compelling proposition to both fleet buyers and user-choosers.
Its first forays into fleet were on the back of cars such as the Lantra and Sonata, cheap and quirky alternatives to the mainstream with high standard specification. However, the cars lacked desirability and, despite those creature comforts, had poor residual values.
Times have changed. Hyundai is now one of the fastest growing car brands in the UK and Europe. It has a comprehensive model line-up touching all possible fleet bases. Furthermore, a growing number of its cars are built in Europe, addressing supply issues, and all of them are underwritten by a robust five year warranty package, unburdened by small print about maximum mileages or limited to first owners.
No longer occupying the cheap and cheerful end of the market, Hyundai is a brand on the move, successfully repositioning itself as a quality mainstream player following a succession of product launches over the last couple of years.
Furthermore, its cars are now stylish and are likely to be even more so in the future now that legendary German stylist Peter Schreyer – the man who transformed the look of Kia, Hyundai’s sister brand – is now chief design officer. His brief is to keep the two brands’ identities separate, a feat he ably achieved at the VW Group.
Hyundai has grown rapidly in the UK on the back of its phenomenal retail sales; initially on the back of the government’s 2009 Scrappage Scheme and then as a result of this product renaissance.
The brand is led in the UK by Tony Whitehorn, the only non-Korean CEO to also be a company president. It’s not an honorary position; it means the UK operation plays a prominent international role and has plenty of clout when it comes to getting things done. Whitehorn knows all about growing a business having cut his managerial teeth at Toyota through the 1990s, where his roles, significantly, included heading up its fleet operations. His plan is to grow Hyundai’s UK sales from around 77,000 this year to 100,000 by 2017. Fleet will be an important element within this.
The job has started. The company only established its fleet department three years ago but already claims to be the fastest growing fleet manufacturer. It also has
a potential to mop up Renault fleets whose cars are coming up for renewal but can no longer replace like for like since the French brand purged its model line-up.
As well as recently expanding its head office fleet department it has also just rolled out an ambitious Fleet Business Centre accreditation scheme across 27 of its dealerships. The aim of this programme is to grow and retain its fleet business at a local level using local expertise. Potentially, it could be expanded to 40 dealerships.
‘Fundamentally companies want a one-stop shop for their staff and directors. Fleets want a range of vehicles. They don’t want to be going to various dealerships; we can offer them a van up to a big 4X4,’ said Whitehorn.
Central to the programme are the specialist trained staff who will look after the needs of local fleets, especially SMEs who will be offered an array of purchasing and funding packages as part of a white label partnership with ALD. It has the makings of a compelling proposition.
Company car drivers will also get from free Wifi facilities and dedicated areas to enable them to continue working while waiting for their cars to be serviced. To further minimise downtime, they will also be offered a choice of free loan vehicles, a collect and deliver service or free shuttle.
The participating dealers will also have demonstrators for fleet managers and their staff to run for a week or so.
‘There has to be an emotional buy-in from the employees and for that to happen we need to lend them cars. They need to see that these cars are an improvement on what they currently drive, at the moment they may not know anything about Hyundai.’
The message is clear. Hyundai is serious about fleet.