Hyundai dealership part of ‘premium’ rebranding

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Hyundai dealership part of ‘premium’ rebranding

Hyundai Motor plans to open the first of a nationwide wave of premium stores in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam District early next year to offer what it describes as a new level of luxury to customers.

The nation’s largest automaker said it is now building the dealership at a building on Dosandaero street in trendy Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, to boost its image and prepare against the rising tide of imported cars.

The street is dense with imported car dealerships and over 20 brands including Ferrari and Lamborghini are sold within a 200-meter (656-foot) radius of the new Hyundai store. Among them, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the two best-selling foreign brands in the country, are located on the opposite side of the street from where Hyundai is setting up camp.

The site was previously occupied by Japanese automaker Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, but since the dealership decided to pack its bags in response to ailing sales, Hyundai signed a lease deal with the building owner. It said it will open its doors in April.

Specific plans have yet to be announced, but the automaker is expected to display its Equus and Genesis luxury sedans and feature various customer-oriented services. Hyundai’s design team reportedly visited Europe recently to benchmark premium stores run by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Sales of imported cars now take up to 10 percent of Korea’s passenger car market, and Hyundai’s luxury models have in particular been struggling in the face of stepped-up competition. It only sold 8,569 of its Equus in the first 11 months of this year, down 30.9 percent from the same period in 2011, while sales of its Genesis slipped 21 percent with just 16,469 sold.

“To boost sales, you can reduce car prices or release new models, but with the economy like it is now, neither tactic is that feasible or successful,” said an employee at Hyundai. “Establishing a premium image and getting more customers to visit the store is a vital part of our new marketing plan.”

Experts see the move as part of Hyundai’s new branding strategy.

In January, Hyundai Motor Group Vice President Chung Eui-sun, the son of group Chairman Chung Mong-koo, announced its new brand identity as “Modern Premium” under the banner “New Thinking. New Possibilities.”

“Hyundai’s history doesn’t match that of German auto brands like BMW or Benz, but as the nation’s No. 1 auto brand, we think it’s time to emphasize our history and tradition to establish a premium image,” an employee from the automaker said.

Ssangyong Motor, the nation’s smallest automaker, recently made a similar overture by opening a luxury store called “W-Lounge” in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, last month.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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