The Korean car maker - which has launched the new Santa Fe in diesel only for now - says the numbers for the Elantra hybrid don't stack up. Hyundai Australia chief executive Edward Lee says the company it was not the right time for the Elantra LPi hybrid. "The business case didn't stack up, the market is still very small and we have to make too much investment," he says.
Lee says the company is adopting a ‘wait to see’ approach on what the market will do but was also focussed on improving the brand image as well. "Market share is important, but in this market our brand power is relatively weak, that's why we have to enhance the brand, which will bring with it market share. "We will focus on share and brand, from next year we will have a different story, with all-new product, it's a good opportunity," he says.
Lee says the upcoming product from Hyundai will continue to change the opinions of the brand. "This is a good product, we can compete with the Japanese product, if customers test drive one, they will realise - that's what we have to do, bring people to drive the car," he says.
Hyundai Australia sales and marketing director Kevin McCann believes the Hyundai image change is well underway. "I don't think we're at the beginning of that process, we're well down that road - people have bought our cars for rational reasons, the key for us now is to get loyalty from previous owners - I'm going to buy another Hyundai because I liked my first one, not just for the rational reasons - that's loyalty and brand."
The Korean carmaker took the competitive market on as a challenge - with factory support - and the company's record performance will mean it will profitable, Lee says. "Yes - we will be, HMC has subsidized us as well, we have been aggressive this year, taking the chance and setting high targets with HMC support, we would be profitable without it."
Lee says the 2010 targets were not likely to be much beyond 2009 figures, despite new model introductions that would normally produce more sales. "With the new product we have to build our brand, of course I want to sell more than this year, but more important is how to build the brand and penetrate the market," he says.