YK Koo, the MD & CEO of Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL), appears overjoyed after briefly driving the sixth-generation Elantra on the East Coast Road near Chennai. “It drives very well. I particularly like the space and the quietness inside the cabin.” This observation comes from a man who is used to travelling in the ultra-luxury Genesis sedan, made by parent Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) for global markets.
The Elantra is an executive sedan and the sixth-generation model was launched on August 23. Within 8 days of launch, it has received over 7,817 enquiries and 405 bookings – a decent number for a sedan that costs upwards of Rs 13 lakh. While the Elantra is a global bestseller (over 11.5 million units have been sold globally since 1990), in India it has met with moderate success, primarily because the segment it is part of has seen muted growth. “We are confident the new Elantra will revive the executive sedan segment in India,” Koo adds.
In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Koo says that, going forward, HMIL’s focus would be not only on becoming a modern and premium brand, but also on rural-specific marketing strategies.
The size of the executive sedan segment is less than 1% of the Indian car market. Why this big focus on the Elantra?
We have strongly established ourselves in the small car and SUV segments; our next step is becoming a modern and premium brand. The sixth-generation Elantra takes us closer to that goal. We have given the car better engines, improved its ride quality, provided a lot of luxury features and have priced it right. We are sure the Elantra will revive the executive sedan segment in India.
Which is the best luxury feature in the car?
The Elantra is full of luxury features, some of which are segment-unique and others are segment-first. For example, the front seats are ventilated – small pinholes blow cool air through the seats. It’s a very comfortable feature for Indian summers. Then there is the smart trunk – if you stand within 3 feet behind the Elantra with the key in your pocket for more than 3 seconds, the trunk will automatically unlock and pop up. The feature list is long.
Which is the next product HMIL is going to launch?
We will launch the third-generation Tucson during the festive season this year, which will fill the wide pricing gap between the Creta and Santa Fe. The Tucson, again, is a premium SUV.
You also showed a sub-compact SUV concept called the Carlino at the Auto Expo earlier this year…
Yes, that project is in the works. Our R&D team in Hyderabad is working in collaboration with their counterparts in Korea. The final product will see the light of day within three years, by 2019. It will be a sub-4 metre SUV with a 1-litre turbo engine.
HMIL has just completed 20 years in India…
Yes, and we are happy with the way we have progressed. Since inception, we have achieved total sales of over 64 lakh units, of which over 41 lakh units have been in the domestic market and 23 lakh units have been exports. Today, HMIL’s contribution to HMC stands at 13%.
How are you enhancing the digital presence of Hyundai, in order to attract the millennial consumer?
Our focus is on offering best-in-class experience to customers across all touchpoints – we call this Experience Hyundai. To reach out to the millennial audience, we have strengthened our presence across digital domain. We enjoy one of the largest followings on social media, with over 6 million fans on Facebook.
India has seen plentiful monsoon rainfall this year. Will it lead to better sales in rural markets for Hyundai?
Rural markets are a key component in our growth strategy. Our approach is going to be an ideal mix of dealerships, service initiatives and increased rural sales outlets (RSOs). We currently have about 350 RSOs. We will focus on rural-specific marketing strategies to communicate with target audience. We expect growth to be higher in rural markets than in urban.