Hyundai Motor Company Australia’s Ben Hershman spoke with CarAdvice about the first half of 2010 and looked ahead to the rest of the year…
The year so far
Hyundai sales have increased 41.5 percent in 2010 on the back of an influx of new models and growing popularity of competitively priced small vehicles and competent SUVs and people-movers. The i30 has moved into fourth position overall on the passenger car charts, moving ahead of the Ford Falcon with 16,797 sales. It is up almost 70 percent compared with 2009 and is trailing small car rivals Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla by 3038 and 2330 units respectively.
“It’s been a very exciting six months for Hyundai in Australia,” Mr Hershman said. “If you look back to 2008, full-year sales we were around 45,000 for the calendar year (45,409 to be precise). So certainly there’s been some strong growth and I would suggest that’s predominantly been driven by us introducing some world-class products in the i-series range.”
The all-new ix35 replaced the Tucson in February, the i45 stepped in for the Sonata in May, and the i20 was launched last week to sit between i30 and Getz (unlike in Europe where the i20 has been launched as a Getz replacement).
Although still selling in small numbers, Accent, Sonata, Tiburon and Tucson have all finished up in Australia. “With any model run-out, especially if the old model runs out as the new model comes in, it’s quite normal to have a bit of run-over and the dealers have to work through those vehicles and find customers for them,” Mr Hershman said.
Despite recording the lowest numbers for the brand, the Grandeur luxury sedan remains on sale after a mostly cosmetic model upgrade in June. Although just 12 found homes in the first half of 2010, Mr Hershman said the vehicle was meeting internal expectations. “That’s about right. Grandeur is a product which appeals to some people in Australia. For us i45 is the bread and butter in terms of that style of car. Grandeur is slightly larger and at this stage it is something that is still available should customers wish to buy one.”
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Hyundai finished 2009 fifth in the sales race, some 14,500 vehicles behind fourth-placed Mazda. After six month in 2010, the Korean has closed the gap to exactly 500 units and is a strong chance to leap-frog the Japanese brand into fourth by the end of the year with sales forecasts of 80,000. Ford is the next manufacturer in its sights, with the bronze medal-wearing local selling just short of 50,000 vehicles for the first six months of 2010. Hyundai Australia product planning manager, Roland Rivero, last week told CarAdvice: “We want to be Australia’s largest importer”, and admitted the decision to release the entry-level i20 Active with just two airbags was made simply to “build sales”.
The mid-sized i45 has made a subdued sales start in its first two months following criticism of the vehicle’s steering and suspension. “We’ve had very positive feedback from our customers but certainly a handful of motoring journalists have given us some constructive feedback about the car which we’ve forwarded on to Korea. We’re reviewing that with them at this moment in time.”
Mr Hershman would not confirm, however, that changes would definitely be made to the vehicle. It is believed a team from Australia has been sent to Korea to work through the issues while an invitation has also been sent to the brand’s Korean head office to test the vehicle in Australia under local driving conditions.
A story revealed by Crikey in February hinted that all was not rosy in dealerland at HMCA. A series of Twitter messages directed at Hyundai CEO Edward Lee revealed a level of unrest among some members of staff, with claims of unfair redundancies, stressful working conditions and special treatment of Korean staff over Australians. Tweets of “All long term staff be careful, Edward wants to get rid of you … there is no loyalty at HMCA from the CEO” and “I see despondency and a failing company.. without committed staff the cracks are beginning to show…..the imploding of HMCA is imminent” were among the stronger sentiments.
Mr Hershman said he was “not in a position to make a comment on [the Twitter issue] at all”.
Still to come in 2010
Hyundai will not add any more new models to its Australian line-up this year. Despite its age, the eight-year old Getz has risen to the top of the sub-$25K Light segment ahead of the Toyota Yaris. Mr Hershman said Getz production for Australia would continue until the end of the year, but denied that the i10 was locked in to replace it. “That’s not confirmed at this stage. We’re looking at i10 but it’s not confirmed at all as to whether that’s coming to Australia or not.”
He was able to confirm the new Elantra (codenamed MD and known as Avante in South Korea) was still on track for an Australian launch, but again said details of dates and exactly what the vehicle would be called were still up in the air. “The car’s being rolled out of Korea this year and we’ll get our production out of the Korean factory as well, but we’re not launching any new cars this year.”
Australian International Motor Show
“You’ll have to wait and see. We’re looking forward to being there.”
“The biggest success has been to launch three new and exciting i-series cars.”
“The biggest frustration has probably been that ix35 has been extremely popular and a small number of customers have had to wait a couple of months for their ix35. We’ve lobbied with Korea to increase our allocation of supply and we’ve had an improvement of that from around June production so that will relieve that somewhat,” Mr Hershman said.
Check back tomorrow for CarAdvice’s Mazda mid-year review 2010.