Hans Greimel
Hans Greimel
Asia Editor, Tokyo

Hyundai goes 'Gangnam Style' with glitzy global showcase

Hyundai's flagship showroom opened May 9 in Seoul's Gangnam district, the capital city's Beverly Hills-like neighborhood.

Photo credit: HYUNDAI
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Hyundai is going “Gangnam Style” with a glitzy new showcase smack in the middle of its hometown’s ritziest neighborhood.

The five-floor Hyundai Motorstudio is a gallery-plus-cafe-plus-library-plus-playground-plus-tuning garage aimed at making the South Korea automaker’s “brand experience a culture in itself,” the company says.

Its defining element is a facade of so-called car rotators that display nine Genesis models like rotisserie chickens behind street-facing picture windows. These cars are turned to show angles normally never seen, such as views of the undercarriages.

Hyundai calls the rotators a “world’s first.”

The flagship showroom opened May 9 in Seoul’s Gangnam district, the capital city’s Beverly Hills-like neighborhood that shot to international fame after its affluenza mores were satirized by the Korean pop star Psy in his hit song “Gangnam Style.” The area is packed with similar flagship showrooms from upscale import brands trolling for their slice of the local riches.

No sales

Hyundai’s Motorstudio is not a sales point; it’s strictly for building brand image through hands-on interaction.

“Our goal is to provide an environment where customers can naturally experience our modern premium brand values,” said Hyundai Motor Co. Chief Marketing Officer Cho Won-hong. “Every detail within Hyundai Motorstudio was designed to create synergy towards making our brand experience a culture in itself.”

Hyundai's new retail showcase in Seoul features an auto library, children’s lounge, premium customer lounge, car-tuning lounge, gallery and cafe. Also planned: a video venue where Hyundai will screen “a wide range of collaborated works with world-renowned artists.”

Photo credit: HYUNDAI

The concept has gained traction with marketers worldwide. Such luxury brands as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Porsche and Audi have opened cafe-style showcases in the world’s top cities.

For Hyundai, its Seoul space has added impetus. The brand is fighting to move upmarket at home, amid a flood of foreign competition. Although import sales are still paltry, they are steadily rising and have grabbed more than 10 percent of the market, eating into sales of local brands Hyundai and Kia.

Brand repositioning

Hyundai, once known as a purveyor of bargain cars with the quality to match, has been trying to reposition itself higher in the global brand hierarchy under a “modern premium” banner.

To amplify the message, Hyundai will open similar showcases in other cities, beginning with Moscow later this year.

Hyundai won’t say whether New York or L.A. might get one.

The Gangnam structure employs 118,110 feet of steel pipes and anodized steel panels. It has an auto library, children’s lounge, premium customer lounge, car-tuning lounge, gallery and cafe. Also on tap: a video venue where Hyundai will screen “a wide range of collaborated works with world-renowned artists.”

For Hyundai as a brand, the goal -- at home and abroad -- is creating a vibe that goes beyond pricing and engine specs.

Or, as a Hyundai press release put it, to proffer a piece of the three C’s: coffee, conversation and culture.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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