LOS ANGELES -- As long as drivers are idling on the perennially congested Interstate 405 freeway, Hani Nassif figures, they may as well be checking out some Hyundais.
Nassif is general manager of Win Hyundai in Carson, Calif., a dealership that recently invested $5 million in a new facility that includes a glass display case to spotlight its products for stalled commuters. The 4,500-square-foot display bridge, set two stories off the ground, accommodates as many as eight vehicles and looks out onto the southbound 405.
At night, an LED projector system splashes the bridge's white background with bright colors that change every minute or so. On Valentine's Day, it's red or pink. On July 4, it would flash red, white and blue.
"We want to have a wow factor," Nassif says.
It's the kind of razzle-dazzle for which Los Angeles is known. Yet it has long eluded Hyundai, a brand that historically has been stuck with second-rate, retrofitted dealership facilities and has underperformed other Asian brands in image-conscious Southern California.
When Nassif and his business partners acquired the dealership in late 2011, he says, it was selling about eight units a month from a showroom that was "a notch above a trailer."
Along with more distinctive vehicle design, dealership construction programs are a big part of Hyundai's efforts to transcend its image as a budget marque, and many underperforming Hyundai dealerships have been sold in recent years to new owners with big plans for the brand. Together, the more attractive vehicle lineup and the upgraded showrooms are beginning to move the needle in the Los Angeles area, Nassif said.