LONDON Feb 25 South Korean carmaker Hyundai
will try to lure away high-end European buyers
including diplomats from their comfort zone of German luxury
models with a new, pricier Genesis car to be launched next
The traditionally mass-market producer, which has focused on
the value end of the market, said on Tuesday it would launch its
latest Genesis sedan in Europe at the Geneva International Motor
Show next week, eying German premium rivals.
Several car manufacturers including BMW, Audi
and Daimler dominate the premium market in
countries such as Britain where German brands hold a more than
80 percent share of the top-end market.
Hyundai Europe Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Allan Rushforth gave no price for the new model, but said only a
fairly small number of vehicles would be marketed, with a focus
on niche buyers.
"We'll be selling, I guess, less than 1,000 of these cars
every year at very targeted and specific customers," he said,
and the focus would be on "people who have got some familiarity
with us as a brand, and not least the diplomatic community."
He told journalists in London that the company, which said
on Tuesday it had reached 6 million European sales since it
began operating in the region in 1977, aimed to increase its
visibility by getting cars on Europe's streets.
Hyundai, which aims to increase its European market share
from 3.4 to 5 percent by 2020, has sought to boost its brand
image by making a foray into the premium market.
"There's a non-market benefit to having Genesis in Europe...
to the home market in Korea and to the U.S market where frankly
just having the vehicle alongside some of the German premium
players gives it a level of prestige," he said.
Hyundai launched the sleek revamped version of its high-end
Genesis sedan model to its South Korean home and U.S. markets in
November and said then it expected to sell 32,000 models at home
and 30,000 vehicles overseas.
The manufacturer, which has European production plants in
the Czech Republic and Turkey, saw European sales fall 5.5
percent in January, and said earlier this month it would not
pursue market share gains at any cost.
Europe's car industry had endured a six-year slump, with
sales falling to their lowest level for around 20 years as
austerity-hit consumers cut back on expensive purchases, but it
has recently returned to growth.
Some manufacturers had been forced to heavily discount their
cars, many firms tempted customers with finance packages and
Hyundai even paid back 2,250 euros to some of its Spanish
customers after running a "Spain scores, you win" campaign
during the Confederation Cup football tournament last year.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)