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What Toyota Gazoo Racing can learn from the Hyundai N performance sub-brand

Hyundai has built a loyal N car following with just the i30 N model in its stable, but more are planned to come.

Hyundai’s N brand might just be a few short years young, but it has already managed to find a fervent and loyal following with just the i30 N under its umbrella.

Toyota is no doubt looking to replicate Hyundai’s success with its own Gazoo Racing (GR) brand, but how has N been such a hit in Australia?

It’s only been two years since the South Korean brand launched its first true performance car, the i30 N hot hatch, but last weekend it managed to attract more than 50 owners to its inaugural N Drive Day.

It’s just the first in a series of planned drive days around the country (obviously that’s dependent on relevant local state health guidance) as well as the second annual N Festival track day. CarsGuide was on hand for the N Drive Day and saw first-hand the passionate owner group the brand has managed to attract with its hot hatch and the i30 Fastback N.

It’s part of Hyundai Australia’s plan to foster and grow a community that will help sell its coming onslaught of new N and N Line models. So far, it’s working well, with the N Performance social media channels attracting more than 17,000 Facebook followers and more than 18,000 followers on Instagram.

Hyundai Australia admits its astounded by just how well the i30 N has been received.

“We are still pleasantly surprised how quickly our i30 N has been embraced by car enthusiasts Australia wide,” said Guido Schenken, Hyundai Australia’s public relations senior manager.

“With no previous history of building high-performance vehicles, we did not expect such initial enthusiasm and passion for our N brand – especially considering we have still only launched just one car.”

The growing community may provide plenty of social media likes, but it will also provide a bigger boost for the company - first-hand endorsement that Hyundai is now serious about performance cars.

“The existing N owners are our best ambassadors; they live and breathe N every day. They are our most important promoters of N, more than advertising, PR or awards, it’s this community that really gets us excited for the future of N,” Mr Schenken explained.

That will be important in 2021 and beyond as Hyundai N and its cosmetic N Line portfolio expands. So far Hyundai Australia has confirmed next year will see the arrival of the updated i30 N with dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and the i20 N, as well as N Line variants of the i30 sedan, Sonata, Kona and Tucson.

This is a crucial growth area for Hyundai, because it has abandoned its once-strong position in the ‘first car’ market with the affordable Excel, Getz and Accent city cars. The obvious hope is that the addition of these sportier, more premium and profitable models will attract new buyers to the brand.

“The N and N Line range will play a big role in our product and marketing plans going forward, and with plenty of new models on the horizon we expect to see significant growth over the next few years,” Mr Schenken said.

“As the N range expands, we expect to see a mix of both conquest buyers and existing Hyundai owners upgrading. With the introduction of the N DCT early next year we will have a performance car with broader appeal, that will attract new customers to our brand.”

A huge boon for Hyundai has been offering the i30 N with a warranty that also covers non-timed, non-competitive track usage, giving owners assurance their circa-$40,000 hot hatch can be pushed safely to its limits.

On the other hand, Toyota isn’t new to performance cars or a sporty sub-brand with the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) moniker having spawned a local Aurion and HiLux in the past.

However, that was over a decade ago, and Toyota has since had to fight against its ‘bland whitegoods’ image.

It helps that Toyota now offers a genuinely fun-to-drive Corolla, Camry and more, but key to boosting its brand image will be the aforementioned GR nameplate.

The first model to arrive down under was the GR Supra, or more commonly known simply as the Supra, b the next will be the GR Yaris, which wears a sub-$40,000 launch pricetag of less than $40,000 drive-away for the first 1000 units.

Toyota says the GR Yaris is actually a $50,000 that it is selling at a discounted rate to quickly gain traction in Australia’s performance car market, and will bump up the price after the first 1000 are sold, but to what extent is currently unknown.

Toyota’s approach, it seems, for fans to fall in love with its performance offerings is to heavily discount, and it has worked as more than half of the first 1000 GR Yaris’ were snapped up in the first 24 hours of order books opening.

The Japanese brand also has other GR offerings in the works – including a HiLux ute – but time will tell if Toyota can compete against the passion seen in Hyundai’s N Performance community.