High-end Hyundai buyers enjoy private lounge, dinners and more

Red carpet
Burns Hyundai in the Philadelphia suburb of Marlton, N.J., uses a package of perks to ensure that buyers of the Genesis and Equus sedans don't regret forgoing a luxury brand.
• Exclusive lounge for Genesis and Equus customers
• Wine tastings or dinner events at local restaurant
• Handwritten thank you notes and Godiva cookies after service visits
• Car washes by hand
• Gas tank top-offs

Tucked away inside Burns Hyundai in Marlton, N.J., is a quiet lounge where the dealership's well-heeled customers can watch CNBC on high-definition big screens from a leather lounge chair while they sip cappuccino or snack on fresh fruit.

To get into the Genesis Lounge, you'll need the three-digit access code. To get the access code, you'll need to buy a Genesis or Equus luxury sedan.

Peter Lanzavecchia, president of Burns Hyundai, likens the Genesis Lounge to airline club lounges for frequent flyers. Even though it's not required by the factory, he says, the lounge and other red-carpet perks the suburban Philadelphia dealership offers its Genesis and Equus buyers are essential to winning over customers from established luxury brands such as Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

"We don't want them in the first 15 minutes to have the husband look at the wife and say, 'Honey, I don't think this is the right place for us,'" Lanzavecchia said.

The pampering of Genesis and Equus buyers begins as soon as a deal is reached, when customers are escorted to the private lounge to complete the paperwork in a conference room away from the showroom floor.

Every Equus sale is handled personally by the dealership's general manager. Doing so gives some customers a sense of exclusivity, even though the vehicle they're buying carries a mainstream badge, Lanzavecchia says.

"We have to make that customer comfortable with leaving their badge behind," he said.

That effort continues well after the deal is done. Service technicians leave handwritten thank you notes and Godiva cookies for customers after their cars have been serviced. Dealership staffers top off the gas tanks and hand-wash Genesis and Equus owners' vehicles during each visit.

Part of Burns Hyundai's premium experience includes invitations to complimentary wine tastings, strolling dinners or open-bar events at a nearby fine-dining restaurant with which the dealership has a partnership deal.

Lanzavecchia has firm, standing orders for these events: "No selling whatsoever."

Even so, he says, the events are helping sales. Lanzavecchia says that after a dinner event in February, the dealership sold four units of the Equus in March, double the store's monthly average for the $60,000-plus Korean luxury car.

The focus on high-end customers has affected the entire sales team at Burns Hyundai, Lanzavecchia says.

The dealership has three so-called Equus Champions -- staffers who are certified by Hyundai to sell the Equus and prospect Equus customers.

Part of the process includes the factory-mandated "Your Time, Your Place" concierge-style service in which Equus Champions take the vehicle to a prospective customer's home or office for a test drive.

The Champions also go to customers' locations to pick up their Equus when the vehicle is due for service.

But that time spent off the showroom floor takes away from time the Champion could be selling cars and earning commissions because Equus Champions sell Hyundai's mainstream products, as well.

So Lanzavecchia rolled out a unique compensation plan for them.

About half of their compensation comes from a fixed salary. The rest comes from a mix based on Equus sales volume, customer satisfaction scores and staying in touch with Equus customers.

The compensation plan was an immediate hit, Lanzavecchia says, and a version has since been made available as an option to all sales staff.

It's just one way the attention paid to high-end customers has affected the entire staff, he says.

"We have gone to school on our premium business," he says. "It spreads. You can't contain that to premium. It just saturates the entire organization."

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