Hyundai Overhauls Its Brand Image

Hyundai's aim at the higher-end segment is underlined by its new global branding strategy that will be announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The carmaker is trying to push its image upmarket and demand higher prices that will be more in line with its recent quality improvements.

The concept "modern premium" is already used internally and will be rolled out next year. A new catchphrase will replace Hyundai's current "Drive Your Way". The company's modernization will focus on customer service, innovative marketing and a better look and feel of the vehicles.

"In the past 10 years, we have been very successful in building an image for quality," Executive Vice President Cho Won Hong, Hyundai's new global marketing chief, said in an interview for autonews last month. "From now on, our direction will be defined as new premium or modern premium."

Although translated, Hyundai means "modern", until not long ago the Korean brand seemed anything but that. The company was known as an economy brand that sold under-priced knock-offs, but now the executives want to completely overhaul the image of the company. Cho wants to place the brand just above Japanese competitors, helping it attain its much desired position with new technology, attractive styling and reliability.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, Hyundai ranked higher than Toyota, Infiniti, Audi and Lincoln in this year's US Initial Quality Study. The Accent and Elantra ranked among the top three in their segments.

"We have been doing quite well in building good functional quality," Cho said. "But we still have some room to improve our emotional quality, and that is related to our brand strategy. That's why we set modern premium as the brand direction for the next five to 10 years."

The redesigned Sonata is the best symbolization of the term "modern premium", introducing a new sculpted design that brings a bit of aggressiveness to a brand that was viewed as dull and insipid.

"Our product is much better than our reputation," said Executive Vice President Oh Suk-Geun, responsible of the Sonata's design. "People are beginning to realize the real value."
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