Tom Lee, head of Hyundai Middle East, confirmed in an exclusive interview with Arab News that the Saudi market is the largest for Hyundai in the Middle East and Africa, accounting for 43.6 percent of total sales in the region.
He also made reference to 2013 sales results which highlighted that Saudi Arabia was a big contributing factor in growth in the region, with Elantra leading the sales drive in Saudi Arabia.
He praised the success of the small i-30 model in KSA which rose almost seven-folds in 2013.
Lee outlined the company’s investments in service capacity and a new training academy for sales and service staff.
This is the text of the interview:
Can you give Arab News an outline of the company’s plans for 2014 in the region?
For 2014, Hyundai Motor Company is focused on pursuing our Modern Premium brand direction and continuing to elevate the Hyundai brand. We will do this by concentrating on offering the highest quality products as exemplified by the all-new Genesis, and providing the very best in customer service in order to satisfy the demands of our customers in the Middle East. There will also be a number of key marketing activities in 2014. These include motor sport, following the birth of the car and team that is competing in the 2014 World Rally Championship, and of course on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, for which Hyundai is the Official Automotive Partner.
How important is the Saudi Market for Hyundai?
It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is our biggest market across the Middle East and Africa, and this was highlighted recently when we released the company’s 2013 sales results for the region. Last year was once again a record sales year for Hyundai, and Saudi Arabia was a big contributing factor to those results. It registered the biggest growth among GCC and Levant markets for 2013 while simultaneously maintaining its position as Hyundai’s single biggest market, with sales up 16 percent to 143,405 units – accounting for 43.6 percent of all cars sold in the region.
What is your secret of success in the Saudi market and your best-selling models? What are the reasons for success of the small i-models in the Saudi market?
As with 2013, our compact cars were the most popular among Saudi customers for 2013. In 2013, the Elantra overtook the Accent as the biggest selling Hyundai vehicle across the country, with the two models accounting for a total of 91,308 sales. The Sonata once again proved popular in 2013, while sales of the Tucson and Santa Fe also increased by 4 percent and 49 percent respectively, reinforcing the popularity of our SUV range in Saudi Arabia. Last year also saw a sharp rise in the sales of the smaller i-models in the country, with the i30 and i40 posting particularly strong sales increases. Numbers of i30s sold rose from 214 to 1,451, while the i40 was snapped up by 956 customers, compared to 135 in 2012.
Describe Hyundai’s investment for servicing and maintaining its cars in Saudi Arabia and is that in line with the rise in sales?
Improving customer service has been a major priority for Hyundai Motor Company and our retail partners in Saudi Arabia during 2013. The year saw the introduction of a number of targeted initiatives, including our Premium Assurance Plus Program.
The program is available to all buyers of Centennial and Genesis models, and provides free maintenance for five years or 100,000km; 24/7 roadside assistance, a five-year service courtesy car loan while their vehicle is being repaired, and a life-time dedicated service adviser.
We launched a purpose-built Training Academy in Dubai, which will provide sales & service training for all staff from across the Middle East and Africa, including Saudi Arabia.
How successful was Hyundai in the luxury segment of the market?
Our premium cars, represented by our flagship Centennial and Genesis models, are key in demonstrating that Hyundai is able to produce cars that are equal to or better than the best in the world.
The introduction of the new 2014 Centennial at the start of last year was a big event for us, and the car has since received a number of high-profile awards across the region. These include being named 2013 Saloon of the Year, and Best Luxury Full-Sized Car for 2013 — all of which reinforces the car’s strong credentials.
The Genesis once again proved popular with Saudi customers, enjoying a 43 percent sales increase to 2,339 units. Saudi Arabia is the biggest market in the region for us when it comes to sales of the Genesis, and 2013 will see the long-awaited launch of the All-New Genesis model in the Middle East, which we believe will prove even more popular with the country’s discerning customers. The All-new Genesis will boast a number of new high-tech additions, and will also be the first Hyundai to embody Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, encapsulating a trio of main design elements: fluid aesthetics, the modern Hyundai look, and a premium ambience.
How many models does Hyundai market in the region and are there going to be new models introduced during this year?
In total, there are 16 Hyundai models available across the Middle East. The extensive vehicle range available in the Middle East is one of Hyundai’s key strengths, allowing us to offer the perfect car for different needs. Within the range we have smaller vehicles such as the i10 and Accent, through to larger SUVs such as Tucson and Santa Fe. Family and executive saloons such as the Sonata and Elantra are also available, as are sporty models like the Veloster and Genesis Coupe. Our luxury segment is represented by the Genesis and Centennial.
With regard to new models for 2014, we have already announced the arrival of the 2014 Elantra, which we expect to be as popular as its predecessor has. Certainly, the main launch for Hyundai for 2014 will be the regional introduction of the All-New Genesis in Spring, and there will be other exciting developments to follow over the course of the year.