Driving Hyundai Forward

Hyundai is the top-selling car brand in Jordan. Tom Lee, the head of the Korean automaker’s regional base, aims to keep it that way.

By Ghaith Madadha

Hyundai has consistently managed to post sales and market share rises over recent years, all while other automakers were struggling to recover from the fallout of the global financial crisis. Hyundai is now the best-selling car brand in Jordan, and the second best across the Middle East. It has largely achieved this by capitalizing on a major global consumer shift from mid-range to more value-orientated car brands, while at the same time moving more up-market with improved design, technology, and a pair of world-class luxury flagship vehicles.

The Head of Hyundai Africa and Middle East Headquarters Tom Lee, outlines to Venture how he intends on keeping his company ahead of the pack in an ever more competitive industry.

Hyundai is now the world’s fifth largest car maker. What are its market share and sales figures in the Middle East and Jordan specifically?

Last year, in the Middle East we sold a total of 328,856 units, which represented an 8 percent increase over the previous year, and meant that our sales topped the 300,000 mark for the second consecutive year. In the face of extremely strong competition from Japanese, European, and American manufacturers, we maintained our number two position in the market, with a market share of around 16 percent.

In Jordan, we are fortunate to work with an excellent distribution partner; Unity Trading Establishment, who mirror the Hyundai company values, and our performance in the country is a testament to their efforts. Jordan is a key market for us regionally, and in 2013 it recorded sales of over 28,500 units, which represented around 9 percent of total sales in the Middle East. These sales also positioned Jordan as the second biggest Middle East market for Hyundai, second only to Saudi Arabia.

Which are the most popular Hyundai cars in Jordan and the region, and why?

For 2013, it was our compact cars that topped the sales charts, with the Elantra and Accent respectively proving to be the most popular models with Middle East and Jordanian customers. The Elantra overtook the Accent as the region’s favorite Hyundai model, recording sales of over 95,000—an increase of 29,000 on the previous year. The SUV line up also continued to sell well, with the Santa Fe and Tucson both posting strong results in the Middle East, and selling over 3,000 units each in Jordan.

Our premium flagship Centennial and Genesis models are very important when it comes to demonstrating the level of luxury and refinement that Hyundai is able to produce, and both models recorded an increase in sales last year in the Jordanian market.

In the second half of 2013, we also launched the Sonata Hybrid in Jordan. The model sold 800 units in 2013, and for 2014, sales are already over 750. There has been a tremendously positive reaction to the Hybrid model in Jordan.

How would you account for Hyundai’s position as the bestselling car brand in Jordan?

Hyundai maintained its number one position in Jordan in 2013, ahead of our Japanese competitors, with a 47 percent market share. Even with Toyota sales showing an increase in 2014, we are continuing to register a strong market share and are maintaining our number one position in the country.

When it comes to Hyundai models, one of our key strengths is the extensive vehicle range that we offer to customers in Jordan, meaning that we can cater to all needs. Recently, customer confidence in these models has increased significantly and this has been helped by Hyundai’s pursuit of its Modern Premium brand direction.

In keeping with one of the main objectives of Hyundai Motor Company, our partner Unity Trading Establishment delivers excellent levels of customer service, which have led to high levels of customer satisfaction. This has enabled us to build strong customer loyalty for the Hyundai brand, something that in turn has had a positive impact on sales figures each year.

Would any resultant purchase price rises have an effect on a very price-sensitive high-tax car market such as Jordan, and would other mid-range brands stand to significantly cut into Hyundai’s market share in such an eventuality?

As with every market that we operate in, our aim in markets such as Jordan is to offer high quality products and reasonable prices. Competition across the region is becoming fiercer every year, but we believe that our customers are satisfied with our current price policy, and therefore do not anticipate any serious decline in market share across the Middle East.

Hyundai have not created a separate luxury sub-brand for the Genesis and Centennial models like Nissan and Toyota respectively created Infiniti and Lexus as defined luxury products. Can the Genesis and Centennial compete with established luxury brands with a Hyundai badge, or are they deliberately intended to raise brand equity and market positioning?

At the current time, Hyundai is focusing on developing and improving our luxury car offering and the levels of service for our luxury customers, rather than investing in establishing a separate brand. By doing this, we can ensure that we continue to supply more affordable luxury cars to customers.

The Centennial and Genesis, which sell well across the global market, are key in demonstrating that Hyundai is able to produce cars that are equal to, or better than, the best in the world. They encapsulate the modern premium brand direction of Hyundai across the globe, and it is these models that have the ability to change customer perceptions about Hyundai as a brand.