Hyundai plans China re­brand­ing re­boot

New Straits Times - - Business -

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

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