Hyundai looks to Genesis to challenge BMW in Europe

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 2, 2014 - 19:43
  • Updated : Mar 2, 2014 - 19:43

An event staff member wipes the hood of Hyundai Motor Co.’s new Genesis sedan during the unveiling ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 26. (Bloomberg)
Hyundai Motor Co. will target the Czech Republic, Slovakia and southern Europe with the new Genesis sedan as South Korea’s biggest automaker seeks a premium-market foothold alongside dominant German manufacturers.

Hyundai will introduce the luxury car at the Geneva auto show this week and begin selling it in Europe by about June, Allan Rushforth, head of the Seoul-based manufacturer’s business in the region, said at a press conference in London.

The Genesis, which went on sale in South Korea in November, competes with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s 5-Series and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class models. The German brands control more than 80 percent of luxury-car deliveries in the U.K., and the western European and Scandinavian markets are likely to be the “toughest to penetrate” for the South Korean company, Rushforth said.

Hyundai plans to sell fewer than 1,000 of the Genesis in Europe annually to “very targeted and specific customers,” Rushforth said. “Having the vehicle available alongside some of the legitimate, premium players gives it a level of prestige that will help us to develop our future strategy.”

Hyundai’s market share in the region narrowed 0.1 percentage point to 3.4 percent last year amid an industrywide sales drop to a two-decade low as the company prepared to introduce a new version of the i10 small car. Rushforth reiterated targets for Hyundai to bring out 22 new models by 2017 and account for 5 percent of European industrywide sales by the end of the decade.

Currently, there are 6 million Hyundai vehicles in use across Europe, with about 70 percent of the cars less than 7 years old, Rushforth said. The proportion of customers returning to the brand for their latest car purchase has risen to about 50 percent from 36 percent four years ago, he said.

“Working on loyalty is really fundamental to the economics of our business, and the success of our business in Europe,” he said. “We’ve been a conquest brand to get to this point, but we’ve got to evolve and mature to balance retention and conquest in the future.” (Bloomberg)