Mr Yang believes that if customers love/like Hyundai more than any other brand, success of the company will come naturally. The Korean giant (including KIA) is aiming to hit fourth place in worldwide sales behind General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen in 2011, but is not specifically aiming to be the world's number one in volume.
The idea that quality as well as customer satisfaction comes before volume seems to be an attitude shift from the Koreans. That's not to say Hyundai will become a more luxurious brand, the words "modern premium" were used repeatedly to describe the direction Hyundai is heading in.
Hyundai began a management process to address quality concerns more than a decade ago and whilst it will still continue to improve quality, it will now shift more resources into customer satisfaction. Apart from a new branding strategy ("New thinking, New possibilities"), Hyundai has even launched an assurance program which will buy back vehicles from customers that have lost their job (USA only).
It will be interesting to see how the company's new brand strategy will improve worldwide perception of the Hyundai brand. Brand management company, Interbrand, ranked Hyundai as the 65th most valued brand in the world last year (ahead of Porsche and Ferrari - full list here).
Leaving the likability factor behind, the most consistent complaint about Hyundai vehicles from Australian journalists has been in regards to ride & handling, particularly steering feel. The issue was brought up on numerous occasions and Mr Yang admitted that he was aware of our concerns and that Hyundai was actively looking for solutions. In a statement given to the media today, Mr Yang said:
"Hyundai has to date tried to optimise its product engineering to largely suit four market regions: Korea, North America, Europe and other markets. We are now working to expand this effort into more markets, and as part of this, we have been working with HMCA (Hyundai Motor Company Australia) to tune our vehicles to meet Australian road conditions and the preferences of Australian drivers. While we believe our efforts have often been successful, for example i30, there is undoubtedly further room to improve, and we appreciate the feedback given to us by the Australian journalists.”
Will Hyundai engineer models specifically for the Australian market? Unlikely. What is likely, however, is that the company will now spend much more time fine-tuning an existing package (taken from one of the four markets) to better suit our needs.
The real test will be how the new Australian-spec Hyundai Elantra, Accent, i40 wagon and Veloster (which are all set for release this year in that order) will be judged when driven on Australian roads. CarAdvice is attending the Elantra launch next week, so expect a full review then.
In the mean time, we would like to know which car brand would you say you 'love' the most?