Who wants to buy a $40K Hyundai?

November 29, 2010

A lot of people, apparently.

The only constant with automotive brands is their constant re-invention. Just look at two of the top four automotive brands in the US now. Toyota is marketing itself like a Volvo in the wake of its recent safety problems. And Chevy (or is Chevrolet?) is all about resale value and good old-fashioned American quality.

Both of these brands had glaring shortcomings that they had to address — but both reinventions were about returning home, rather than breaking new ground. Generally any real new ground requires true product innovation along with the support of a dedicated branding campaign. Not so with the Hyundai Genesis.

Hyundai Genesis

Launched in 2009 with a mix of ridicule and interest, the Genesis represented Hyundai’s biggest departure from the company’s core business of well-made economy cars. To do so, Hyundai decided not to launch the product “un-branded.” Foregoing the best practices of Toyota, Nissan and Honda’s lead of creating a high-end sub-brand for its high-end product, Hyundai took its own path: They created an un-badged car that at first glance resembles the E series. They doubled down on their brand assets of quality and reliability — and bet this would be enough to move the car.

It seems they may have been right. Since the beginning of 2009, the Genesis has sold more than 60,000 cars. By the end of this year, that number should break 100K. And while only a fraction of the sales for the Sonata (over 200K during the same time), the Genesis represents a brand victory for Hyundai.

By avoiding the expense and risk of a new brand and instead focusing on the car itself, Hyundai may have created a new model for creating brand stretch in the automotive industry. Hyundai has re-invented the whole category.

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