Hyundai Motor America:

New Genesis Brand – Bbalee Bbalee

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Image Source: Genesis Motors USA

Image Source: Genesis Motors USA

The new Genesis brand of luxury vehicles has been launched with Hyundaispeed!  Bbalee!  Bbalee!  Quick, quick in Korean.

Finally, Hyundai Launches a Luxury Brand  After years of deliberation, argument, and negotiation, Hyundai has launched the new Genesis brand.  Hyundai officially announced the new Genesis brand in November 2015.  Erwin Raphael was appointed head of Genesis in March 2016.  The new Genesis brand goes public in September, 2016.  That is quick – bbalee, bbalee!

In reality, the new Genesis brand is not a big deal.  The brand will have only six vehicles by 2021.  This does not approach the dozens of models offered by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.

But wait.  That is wrong, Genesis is a BIG DEAL!  Genesis is the only luxury car brand launched after 1990 that has a deep pockets major manufacturer behind it.  Tesla, launched in 2004, is questionably viable in the long term.

Hyundai has decided after years of consideration that a stand-alone luxury brand is a BIG DEAL.  The resources of Hyundai are committed to guarantee its success.  Hyundai presently has about 835 dealers in the United States.  The new Genesis brand will launch with about 300.  These have been selected with great care.  The Genesis Institute will train dealer salespeople across the country.

Aggressive Launch Marketing  The new Genesis brand launches with all guns blazing.  Genesis launches as the luxury car sponsor for the National Football League.  They are the sponsor for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club.  These sponsorships are sure to make a splash.  By early 2017, awide cross-section of American car buyers will know Genesis as a brand.  They will know Genesis now exists as a brand rather than just a few car lines resting atop the Hyundai Motor America lineup.  This will get the new Genesis brand and the two vehicles it will initially have to sell – the G90 and G80 – on the radar of people who have money to spend on their next new vehicle.

While Genesis vehicles promise to be outstanding, the brand’s commitment to its customers is a cornerstone of its existence.  Genesis wants to take the customer experience to a whole new level beyond Lexus, Mercedes and BMW.

Respect for Time  Respect for the Genesis Customers’ time is of paramount importance.  Time is precious and cannot be replaced.  So lets call this the Genesis “Respect Initiative”.  Tthe features of this “respect initiative,” hovever, last only for 3-years and 36,000 miles.  The 3/36 commitment results from Genesis management estimates that up to 80% of Genesis vehicles will be leased and the majority of those leases will be for 3-years and 36,000 miles.  During the “respect period” Genesis owners/lessees will get full maintenance, valet service, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, navigation map updates, 24/7 roadside assistance with concierge service, and Genesis Connected Services.  It would not be a surprise if Genesis has a comprehensive CPO (certified pre-owned used car) program in place by the time the first vehicles come off lease that would extend the “Respect Period” for subsequent owners.

Genesis Uses Hyundai’s In-House Advertising Agency – Innocean  While Genesis is a stand-alone brand, it accelerated its launch by using Innocean as its advertising agency.  Innocean is owned by Hyundai and also handles advertising for Hyundai brand vehicles.  By using Innocean, Genesis gets a known quantity without lengthy reviews to select from numerous agencies vying for the job through lengthy and expensive reviews.  Also, there is likely a “family discount” for using the in-house agency in there somewhere.

When asked by an advertising-savvy media member how the new Genesis brand will target its buyers after the NFL and LA Open hoopla, Genesis and their agency will “respectfully” target anyone who can afford to buy their cars.  Genesis head Erwin Raphael contends they have no specific target buyer in mind – no age range, gender, or ethnicity.  They are just targeting the ability to pay a certain lease fee for their G90 and G80 sedans.  And after the brand is launched with heavy advertising and sponsorships, specific groups will be emphasized using Internet messaging and social media.

Product is the Foundation Leading to The Genesis Customer Experience  Presently, there are six vehicles planned for the Genesis lineup.  There are four cars and two SUVs.  The G80 luxury sedan is on sale now.  It is a 5-Series/E-Class competitor.  The all new G90 (formerly Hyundai Equus) luxury sedan goes on sale in September.  It is a competitor to the Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series.  Later comes a BMW 3-Series competitor – the Genesis G70.  Then a near luxury sport coupe is launched.   There will be a mid-luxury sport utility vehicle and a near luxury SUV.  Frankly, they cannot get these SUVs on the market quickly enough.

Based on driving the G90 and G80, Genesis products promise to give the best entries in the competitive set a solid run for their money.  Initially, they will be value propositions.  You will get more features and content for your money.  Such a deal!


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2012 Nissan Versa Sedan Lowest Price New Car, or Is It?

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There are no bad cars.  It’s been years since I’ve seen a really bad car to be sold as new in the USA.  Maybe the not lamented Chrysler Sebring came close before it evolved into the Chrysler 200 for 2011.  So, as the new V-Platform Nissan Versa is poised to be launched for the 2012 model year as the lowest price new car available in the USA you wonder if a new car priced so low is a bad car?  The answer is a resounding no.  But with the Versa and new Hyundai Accent arriving almost concurrently on the market it begs brief comparison.

2012 Nissan Versa Sedan

2012 Hyundai Accent Sedan


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Steve Wilhite Leaves Hyundai – Marketing Man on the Loose

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Readers of VehicleVoice may not be intimately aware of the folks running the various car companies, but their comings and goings can make for great stories. The recent career of Steve Wilhite, until last Friday Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai Motor America, promises to be one of the more interesting.

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Wilhite’s Career – Ford, Volkswagen, Apple, Nissan, Hyundai… NEXT?
Wilhite has been a well-regarded car marketer since he joined Volkswagen of America in the early ’90s and help turn the company around through innovative advertising campaigns. Of course, he picked up the ball after VW had stopped taking cars produced at their Puebla, Mexico assembly plant until quality was acceptable. At their lowest, Volkswagen sold less than 50,000 cars in one year.
Wilhite Credited with “Think Different”
Following VW, Wilhite joined Apple Computer as the chief marketer. Apple’s “Think Different” campaign came under Wilhites tenure and set the image of the Apple brand for the late ’90s and early ’00s. Apparently, working for Steve Jobs as a senior executive is not the easiest job in the world. Wilhite recounts stories of being summoned to Jobs’ home at oh-dark-thirty more than once to brainstorm Apple marketing issues.
Tokyo a Wrong Move
But the car industry beckoned again and after a brief interlude Wilhite joined Nissan North America as head of marketing and then moved to Tokyo as head of Nissan’s global marketing. Frustrating job. Great title, but no real power. Spouse hated Tokyo. Writing on the wall. Hyundai came along.

The Hyundai Year – August 2006 – September 2007

Wilhite joined Hyundai Motor America in August 2006 as their “current” Chief Operating Officer. Following the departure of Finbarr O’Neill the COO job at HMA had been a revolving door. In fact, Wilhite’s predecessor Bob Cosmai lasted a bit over a year. HMA missed his first year’s sales targets by less than 2,000 units and the second year by about 15,000. Didn’t meet his targets… assassinated.
Wilhite joined a company with extremely ambitious sales targets. A target of 1,000,000 units in the USA for 2010 was a one-time target – part of Hyundai’s Global Top Five strategy. Wilhite inherited a sales target of 555,000 units for the 2007 calendar year when he signed on. This was adjusted to 510,000 units as the reality of the 2007 calendar year became clearer. By the time he left, HMA was on track to sell a bit over 450,000 units. So, either the Koreans eliminated another top American, Wilhite got extremely frustrated with Korean management and not achieving goals, or Wilhite has a really good offer in the works from another car company.
Wilhite to Fill Ford’s Top Marketing Opening?
We’ll go with the other car company offer for the moment. Conjecture has it that Wilhite would be the perfect candidate for the top marketing job at Ford Motor Company. Ford is looking. In fact, General Motors may be looking for a replacement for their top marketing exec Mike Jackson who “left” earlier this year. Looks like Wilhite may have several juicy opportunities if he chooses to stay in the auto biz.
In any event, Hyundai has lost another top executive… an executive who understands the power of brand building and was putting plans in place to enhance the overall perception of Hyundai in the USA.


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Concept Hyundai Genesis: New York Auto Show

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Next, Hyundai Takes on Luxury Sport Sedans
As VehicleVoice reported earlier (click here), Hyundai revealed an upcoming rear-drive sedan as the Genesis concept at the New York Auto Show, and at what must have been one of the best-attended end-of-day press conferences ever. There was surprisingly little traffic around Genesis the next day during my walkaround. It was more difficult to get post-conference photos of the Infiniti EX or Ford Flex than the Hyundai, and we see the Genesis as one of the most significant introductions at this year’s show. (Click for our posting of Hyundai’s official Genesis photos.)

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Genesis, known internally at Hyundai as “BH”, telegraphs Hyundai’s intention to seriously go after rear-drive sports sedans. The exterior design builds on styling credibility Hyundai has been developing, but the interior and the driving dynamics that will make or break this car are still under wraps. A miss on the exterior styling would keep people away, but even with strong styling the car will not make it all the way to consumer driveways if the interior is a disappointment.
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Hyundai designers have created a smooth and elegant design, but Genesis does have one risk: It could blend in with the pack. Genesis takes styling cues from luxury brands all over the world (long, thin taillights much like the Lincoln Zephyr concept, though the MKZ production lights are taller; decklid bump from BMW; narrow headlights similar to Acura; lower LED fog lights along the lines of the Audi S6) and shown off on a silver car, created a credible look for their upcoming sports sedan. The wheels are sharp, as is the subtle character line running from front fender, over the door handles, and into the taillights. Though the grille is among the elements that may be revised before production, it is clearly a Hyundai grille and shares some relationship to the Azera.
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Hyundai gave no hints as to the interior, but the exterior design is ready to play. There’s a fine, fine line between hitting the mark and going too far. Genesis won’t be accused of moving the needle and does not offer new design elements. But Hyundai is working its way into relatively conservative segments, and Genesis takes the safe route. Luxury sedan buyers look for elegance, simplicity, and style and don’t seem to adapt quickly to dramatic style shifts; witness the brouhaha that surrounded the latest 7-Series introduction. Hyundai is wise to start off with something elegant but that does not push the envelope just yet.


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Hyundai Veracruz: Soon to Arrive in the States

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Hyundai has developed a new SUV/crossover to go up against the likes of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Mitsubishi Endeavor. In size terms, it falls neatly between the Pilot and Explorer, or between Mazda’s new CX-7 and upcoming CX-9. On sale in the States in December 2006 and being formally introduced to U.S. buyers at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in January, Veracruz has already arrived in the home market. Here are some photos of the Korean-specification model, from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, along with some speculation and fact about what we think we’ll see here in three month’s time.

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At first glance, the Veracruz styling is attractive and the expected equipment level looks to be competitive. We’re looking forward to seeing it in the tin, the real measure. As Hyundai product executions make solid strides in quality and overall look with each successive product, the Veracruz has potential to be one of the best Hyundai offerings yet.


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Schembri and Killen – American Marketing Management Out at Mitsubishi

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Editors NOTE: Since this was written, Dave Schembri has landed at Roger Penski’s smart operations in the USA. Schembri had been head of smart at Mercedes-Benz USA prior to joining MMNA. Wayne Killen joined Hyundai Motor America as Director of Product Planning in early 2007.
Mitsubishi Motors North America announced on Friday, February 17, that Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Schembri and Vice President of Marketing Wayne Killen had resigned from the Company. In a statement by Mitsubishi, “Both left to pursue other opportunities.”
The former Mitsubishi marketing duo joined Mitsubishi at a time when sales were off drastically from prior years and no rebound in sight. Just stabilizing losses and rebuilding from a lower base of sales may have been considered a success, but even after a year with Dave Schembri running Sales and Marketing the Titanic couldn’t be turned.
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Schembri joined Mitsubishi Motors North America in February 2005 after serving as the chief of the Maybach brand at Mercedes-Benz USA and then head of its still-born smart division. With the demise of smart’s efforts in the USA shortly following the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Schembri moved westward to Mitsubishi headquarters in Cypress, California.
Wayne Killen, brand manager for the ill-advised Maybach brand at MBUSA joined Schembri at Mitsubishi in August 2005 as Vice President of Marketing. Working for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America early in his career (1987 – 1989), Killen had most recently spent ten years at Mercedes-Benz USA. At MMNA, Killen was responsible for advertising, brand experience marketing, product and marketing public relations and product strategy.
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During their tenure at MMNA, Schembri and Killen launched the 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Mitsubishi Raider pickup and had just completed the public introduction of the soon-on-sale Eclipse Spyder.
The duties of Schembri and Killen are beeing handled by Hiroshi Harunari. Harunari has bee co-Chief Operating Officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America since January 2006. Rich Gilligan, former head of Mitsubishi’s manufacturing operations in Normal Illinois continues as the other co-COO.
These moves at Mitsubishi demonstrate the level of exposure senior managers take at some import-brand distributors. Last Fall, Peter Butterfield was ousted from his position as head of Kia Motors of America. In January, after a very confident presentation at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Cosmai fell at Hyundai Motor America. While Schembri and Killen had not yet been able to stabilize MMNA’s fortunes in the USA, Butterfield and Cosmai were managing companies that have healthy growth and prospects.


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Hyundai’s New People Mover: Entourage

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The Kia Connection Gives Hyundai a New Minivan
Hyundai‘s Entourage, the minivan that almost didn’t happen, was introduced at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, where AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents took a first look.
Hyundai also used the venue to introduce the latest Accent hatchback, and both entries get Internet marketing support with their own websites. Entourage continues Hyundai’s the company’s formula of value pricing and high levels of standard safety equipment. Though Hyundai is comparatively late to a mature but also highly competitive segment, the Entourage offers a competitive package and checks all the necessary boxes. Our first look at the Entourage reveals a minivan with a competitive package, though the fit and finish are not at best-in-class levels yet.


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