Hyundai has kept the pedal to the metal for years now in its bid to become one of the major players in the global economy and, especially, the U.S. market.
It began with a trailblazing 100,000-mile warranty, was strengthened with the company’s “Assurance” advertising campaign in 2009, and emerged impressively in its major market-share pickup over the last two years.
Now, at a press preview for the North American International Auto Show today, South Korea’s dominant automaker may be indicating that it’s taking another major step in a fast evolution toward the top.
Hyundai announced a new brand slogan – “New Thinking, New Possibilities” – under which it said it would aspire to emulate in premium products such as Apple’s iPhone and the Nespresso coffee-making machine while also retaining the affordability that has helped it become the world’s fifth-largest automaker already.
And typically wasting no time, Hyundai also introduced the first new vehicle that is inspired by the new branding paradigm: Veloster.
The model features two doors on the passenger side but only a single, wide door on the driver’s side. And as previewed at CES in Las Vegas last week, it integrates Xbox (yes, that's a dashboard video screen), Pandora, and iPod functionality, all via the brand's proprietary Blue Link technology that enables hands-free texting, among other features.
Designed as Hyundai's answer to OnStar, the connection to the user's digital multimedia library syncs smartphones with the in-car entertainment system via Bluetooth for connectivity.
"We are targeting somewhere between the mass market and luxury segments," said Cho Wong-hong, executive vice president and head of Hyundai's marketing division. "It is a market that has not been tapped by other car makers before," he told reporters in Seoul last week in comments that were embargoed until today.
Hyundai already has taken a stab at this kind of positioning with its Genesis four-door and coupe, which it has positioned as a reasonably priced but similarly equipped competitor to luxury sedans.
Chutzpah may not be a Korean concept, but consider that part of Hyundai’s brand positioning as well.