The Keys to Experience: 5 Questions With Hyundai CMO Dean Evans


Hyundai Shopper Assurance

Hyundai has been adjusting on the fly to the rapidly changing dynamics of the U.S. auto market. Not only is the market flattening but also there’s an accelerating shift by American consumers in favor of utility vehicles and away from sedans, which is the auto body style that made Hyundai a key player in America.

The good news—Hyundai has new  SUVs and crossovers on the way to augment its lineup of sedans and its awardwinning reputation for quality that remains at the top of consumer evaluations. Another key focus for Hyundai is differentiating the customer’s experience with the brand and its dealerships.

Dean Evans / Hyundai USA CMO“There’s a new competitive playing field,” Dean Evans, CMO for Hyundai Motor America, told brandchannel. 

“A lot of times we focus on engineering great mobility and the product, the car. But we have another product, which is how the consumer is buying it and [owning the car] and, hopefully, some day coming back and buying again.”

Evans will cover the new age of customer experience and how Hyundai dealers are delivering on that promise in a keynote address at the upcoming Automotive CX Summit Series hosted by Thought Leadership Summits on June 19-21 in Marina Del Rey, California.

He told us more about how Hyundai is improving the customer experience and dealing with today’s market dynamics in a Q&A:

How are you approaching and evolving Hyundai’s customer experience?

Today the cars are all getting pretty good, so how do you compete? And Amazon is sitting in the middle of a room like an elephant and saying consumers want their goods differently. So we’re looking at the buying and owning experience. We think that’s going to be a competitive advantage for us and is now and will be in the future.

What does this mean for customers?

More consumers tell us they want us to respect their time and that even in some big retailers’ cases, like Walmart, time is becoming first over price. We’ve rolled out Shopper Assurance, a program that addresses some of the most painful or friction-ridden parts of the process, and we think we’re smoothing them out working with retailers in this new kind of world. It’s our north star.

Respecting people’s time more and giving them more transparent pricing and giving them a worry-free guarantee that says if you’re not happy you can come back and make sure you’re happy. No other brand new car has an offering like that. It’s conquesting at the brand level dramatically. We launched it about five months ago.

Since launching, we’ve surveyed customers who’ve been through the process and one of the questions we asked is: Did this experience play a role in their decision to ultimately purchase a Hyundai over a competitor? 61% of them are saying yes and 65 to 70% of our volume these days is conquest. That’s a pretty good indicator. And there’s the work that retailers are putting in to make sure that what the marketing program says is really what’s happening in the field.

Hyundai Shopper Assurance

How are consumers experiencing the Hyundai brand through the purchase process, service and so on?

We have four pillars. One is transparent pricing. Not just MSRP and “call me” on the website, but they’re filing with MSRP minus any rebates and minus any dealer discount: There’s your price (not all cars are priced the same); there are variables. But now this transaction price lines up with what legitimate third parties are saying for the most part, or we’re really close. There’s a legitimacy.

The second pillar is streamlined purchase. Now dealers that are Shopper Assurance dealers have this functionality and tech on their website that allows them to do credit apps, approvals, lease payments, get hard trade values—all of those things—so when you do come into store you don’t go to credit app and talk about price; you get the keys and let’s do the best test drive you’ve ever had. The customer spends time test driving and not thinking about price. That’s where tech is playing a big role for us. Tech is bringing pricing and more of shopping parameters to customers’ fingertips prior to visit.

A flexible test drive is one of the other two pillars. We’ll bring it to you. We have this beautiful app called Hyundai Drive that’s like Uber: Click it and a Hyundai salesperson comes to you with the car of your choice. We allow salespeople to say we’ll come to you—or if you want to come to us, I’ll buy you that Starbucks here. We’re authorizing treats or sometime test-drive incentives to come in. We’re trying to merchandise the test drive, and consumers love it . Most consumers choose to come to the dealer because they like selection; but they also like that the brand is ready to hop to it and bring you a Starbucks with a click. The fourth pillar is three-day worry-free returns (money-back guarantee).

What has been the impact of American consumers’ shift away from sedans?

We’ve got every base covered. SUVs are coming. This will be the year of the SUV. Kona is flying off the shelves. We have a redesigned Santa Fe coming, a rugged-and-family-hauler combo, which is what that segment needs. And we have more coming by this time next year. Also, in the fall, we have a nice marketing campaign coming that will remind U.S. consumers that we have a full lineup of SUVs today, which also includes Tucson with a new facelift that happened this year.

Next year we will have a larger SUV and another one smaller than Kona that we’ve announced, so we’ve got some big plans there. We also have Ioniq and Kona Electric, and a Sonata plug-in hybrid, which all are tops in their class from an EPA and efficiency standpoint. Gas prices up or down—we’re really leveraged well across the board there for whatever happens now. Before we had fuel-efficient sedans, and now we’ve got multiple body types and multiple power trains across multiple segments.

How has the leveling off of auto sales affected you? It’s a different U.S. market than it’s been in almost a decade.

We’re dealing with things as well as we can. We’re transitioning into higher-velocity and –margin vehicles with SUVs. So we have more money into velocity-generating activities like marketing and more aggressive incentives that we can ratchet up. We were in a flat-line situation for a while, but the company was managing itself lovely. We had to commit to a certain amount of sedan production and still stay at a certain level of profitability. We did that pretty well for a few years, and now we will see more retail sales growth.

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