Hyundai plans China rebranding reboot
SEOUL/BEIJING: Bruised by antiKorean sentiment in its biggest market and losing ground to local carmakers, Hyundai Motor will open its first Chinese brand store, and may locally assemble its premium Genesis cars and accelerate the launch of a sportutility vehicle (SUV), said people familiar with the plans.
The measures are aimed at rebooting the South Korean firm’s branding in China, where many see Hyundai as a lower-end maker of city taxis.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors were not long ago ranked third among foreign car brands in China, but recent sales have been hit by a consumer backlash over South Korea’s deployment of a United States anti-missile defence system which Beijing opposes.
Analysts said the diplomatic row masks broader problems for Hyundai/Kia in China: poor brand recognition and a model line-up struggling against local brands’ cheaper SUVs.
“Hyundai has an in-between brand that doesn’t have a clear identity in China, and there’s the backdrop of poor China-Korea relations,” said James Chao, Shanghai-based Asia-Pacific chief of consulting firm IHS Markit Automotive.
“Newly introduced SUVs should help, but they are late to the game.”
Even before the missile systems row, Hyundai/Kia’s China market share tumbled to 8.1 per cent last year, the lowest in eight years. This year, it has slid further to five per cent.
To help its identity crisis, Hyundai will in September open a brand experience centre in Beijing’s 798 Art District, a trendy hub of refurbished factory buildings. Hyundai has three similar centres in Seoul and one in Moscow.
“We’re not going to show a real