Hyundai rides on new Sonata to break premium segment jinx

Roudra Bhattacharya New Delhi | Updated on November 17, 2017 Published on April 09, 2012

Hyundai Sonata

When Hyundai unleashed an eye-catching silver and black innovative campaign in business dailies recently for its Sonata brand, it created quite a flutter.

This was in sharp contrast to its earlier marketing strategies of doing ritzy launches and TVCs. Why did it choose to ride on business publications to make its sales pitch?

According to advertising insiders this was but a sign of how the Korean auto major has been changing Sonata's positioning and trying to move the brand up the social ladder.

Younger owners

Mr Vivek Srivastava, Joint Managing Director, Innocean, Hyundai's in-house creative agency, says, “The entire idea was to go to the audience that matters – to top honchos and business leaders. We wanted to move in a sure-footed manner.” He points out that the ownership age group in this segment has gotten younger – from 45 to 35.

The print ads were followed up by brand association activities at high society events such as polo tournaments. Digital, TV and outdoor formats are expected to only be an additional supplement to these.

Small carmaker

Hyundai has unfortunately been saddled with an image of being primarily a small and mass carmaker due to the success of its compact models such as the Santro and i10. This is believed to have worked negatively for the company in the premium segment. With customers in the segment willing to pay big money only for brands with a luxury tag, Hyundai's Tucson and Terracan SUVs, and the previous two Sonata models did only moderately well.

But now things are changing. A few things have helped Hyundai develop a more premium image, say industry experts. One is its new distinctive ‘fluidic' design language – seen first in the new Verna, another is the fact that all its models now focus on premium features such as a sunroof. Customer acceptance in the high-end segment can be seen by the good demand for the Santa Fe SUV it launched last year.

“The Sonata is an expression of ‘Modern Premium' which is our new brand direction announced in February last year. We are gradually adding more muscle at the top-end of the market,” says Mr Arvind Saxena, Director - Marketing and Sales, Hyundai Motor India.

The Sonata would look to give Hyundai a sure-footing in a segment dominated by the Skoda Superb and the Honda Accord. Other competitors include the Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat and the Suzuki Kizashi.

“The premium and luxury segment across product lines is rapidly growing. Volumes in these segments are small but the growth rates are exceptionally high,” said Mr Saxena.

Premium brand

Mr Srivastava adds, “The idea is to build the Sonata as a premium brand, which has a rub-off on the rest of the portfolio.”

An improved brand image also flows from its recent successes in the European and US markets. Hyundai was one of the select few that gained market share in the US during the market slowdown of 2009, even as the Japanese and American auto majors fell on hard times.

“The previous generation of cars did not promise anything very new – to disrupt the existing status quo in the industry. Now the styling is much more edgy,” said an industry expert.


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Published on April 09, 2012
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