Hyundai and its turbocharged CEO, Tony Whitehorn, believe they are about to change the buying habits of UK customers forever, when “a new innovative retail experience” becomes part of their car-selling armoury later this year.
Whitehorn, one of the country’s most creative car-men, won’t give specifics about his rule-breaking except to say the new deal provides an alternative to the classic car-buying procedure of finding information on the net before visiting a dealership to drive a demo car and complete the deal.
The idea is being trialled here for probable use by Hyundai in wider Europe. Whitehorn is confident they’ll have confirmed its effectiveness by the turn of the year, so it can start generating big business. He believes it pioneers a method customers might use to buy cars for many years to come.
The new selling technique is preceded by a remarkable change in Hyundai’s corporate identity, so dealerships will turn brown (see pic). “We want to interrupt people,” says Whitehorn. “Dealerships mostly have lots of blues and whites. They all look the same. We want our colour scheme to be unexpected.”
Whitehorn explains that Hyundai UK’s move is an implicit acknowledgement of the huge changes that have already occurred in customer behaviour over recent years, influenced by the web.
Fifteen years ago buyers visited an average of four dealerships before doing a deal, and took 10 weeks to make up their mind. Today their web research means they need visit only average 1.2 dealerships, on average, and the deal is done in 10 days.
Whitehorn has presided over huge expansion in UK Hyundai sales, aided partly by the government’s scrappage scheme. By 2012, sales had climbed 150 per cent in five years — in a market that dropped by 15 per cent.
However, now that Hyundai has joined the UK’s 10 best-selling marques (it was 23rd) expansion will be slower. Sales in 2013 amounted to 80,500 and Whitehorn wants 100,000 before the end of the decade, at which stage Hyundai will be in the top five.