Tom Lee is not easily offended. Instead, the regional managing director at Hyundai never loses his affability when pointedly asked how the South Korean carmaker can ever hope to make a mark within the luxury category here.
But Lee is also not one to indulge in marketing hype to make a case for his premium models — the Genesis and the Centennial. Instead he prefers to marshal facts, and compelling facts too, to get the message across.
That is exactly what Lee — and Hyundai — are doing in the Middle East to create a buyer base for the luxury line-up.
The Centennial goes for upwards of Dh215,000. For the same price, a buyer has the option to choose from the generic European and Japanese prestige models. How would you then hope for Hyundai to succeed?
By getting the prospective buyer to get behind the wheels of a Centennial or the Genesis, test it and then take an informed decision. Spec for spec these models can compete with the best out there and they also come with a 25 to 30 per cent price advantage.
How do you intend to do that?
It was last year we decided to have this focus on luxury models and this year we brought in the Premium Assurance Programme to back it up. There’s this campaign where we give extra incentives to car owners to come and test drive. These incentives will still be there even if they don’t end up buying the car. But the message of Hyundai as a brand is what we want to give out.
Hyundai already has an established presence in the compact and mid-size sedan category. Why do you need to put in so much effort on the luxury?
More than anything else it helps with building the brand awareness. This year we should sell about 5,000 of the luxury models in these markets and that’s double of last year. We are taking a long-term to growing our Middle East interests within the luxury category.
Some might say it will take your eyes off the core strengths, which are in the small and mid-sized cars…
Not a chance. We can sell a lot more compact and mid-sized cars if we had more production coming our way. This year we are confident selling 20,000 units in the UAE against 12,000 in 2011. Our market share has doubled during this period.
Losing focus is not going to be an issue.