LOS ANGELES -- Hyundai's new U.S. marketing chief wants the brand to make stronger pitches about improved quality, design and engineering -- a more emotional appeal to buyers who traditionally have shopped the brand only on price.
"We have a lot of work to do to create deeper, richer stories," said Steve Shannon, the former General Motors marketing executive hired as Hyundai Motor America's vice president of marketing in April.
Consumers frequently put Hyundai on their shopping list because of the brand's practical attributes: value, warranty and fuel economy, Shannon said.
Hyundai now wants to attract shoppers on a more emotional level, Shannon said at the Automotive News Marketing Seminar here last week.
For example, marketing and advertising efforts stressing Hyundai's engineering abilities might feature new technology such as BlueLink, its upcoming information/entertainment system, or a new 5.0-liter V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission that will debut on the 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan, Shannon said.
Hyundai, shedding some of its longtime appeal to price-sensitive consumers, has expanded its U.S. lineup in recent years to include luxury sport sedans such as the Genesis and Equus.
Hyundai also is benefiting from well-received styling changes and improved quality scores by third parties such as J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.
Shannon has been leading Hyundai's U.S. marketing efforts for just five weeks, but he already has left an imprint.
Hyundai began a program this month that guarantees the trade-in value of models after two years of ownership, if the customer trades for a new Hyundai.
The program is designed to remove lingering consumer concern about Hyundai resale values and comes as the brand begins marketing models such as the Equus, a $60,000 sedan designed to compete with the Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S class.
The brand's Hyundai Assurance program, crafted under former marketing boss Joel Ewanick, made waves when it debuted in 2009 during the recession, when unemployment soared and auto sales tanked.
Under the program, buyers could return a car without penalty or loss of creditworthiness if they lost their job or declared bankruptcy within a year of purchase.
Hyundai sold 204,374 vehicles through April, up 31 percent from the same period in 2010, putting it on pace to set a U.S. sales record.