DETROIT — Hyundai Motor Group is going through a restructuring that will shift more decision-making power to regional markets such as North America, a move that could lead to better coordination between U.S. manufacturing and sales operations, said Hyundai Motor America COO Brian Smith.
Aligning manufacturing with consumer demand in various markets, Smith said, has always been a challenge for global automakers. Hyundai Motor America, for its part, has struggled to fulfill demand in the U.S. for crossovers while absorbing large numbers of small sedans imported from Korean factories.
With Hyundai brass in Seoul looking to loosen their reins in other regions, Hyundai's American operations could see an increase in efficiency.
"To be able to match demand with production is going to be a huge benefit," Smith told Automotive News. "Not only for us, but dealers and regional offices will see better coordination as they're doing allocations and that kind of thing."
Going further, Smith said Hyundai Motor America may use its greater clout to call for production of more special-edition models.
"We're getting better at being able to do smaller volume customization of special editions," Smith said. "That's been a focus of the product planning group for a while. It takes time to plan, and now I think we're going to start seeing more of that."
Smith also touched on the future of the automaker's luxury line, Genesis. He said the brand won't need more than 100 dealers as it develops a stand-alone retail network.
Genesis has been doing pop-up displays at luxury malls to spread awareness, which Smith said can be useful for a brand that plans to start with a limited number of stores.
The company has yet to announce which markets it has designated for stand-alone Genesis dealerships.
"If there's a science to it, it's finding the right balance" of coverage in areas with high concentrations of luxury customers, Smith said of the market selection.
"They cluster in a number of big cities obviously. ... We also need geographical coverage so that people aren't concerned about service."
Hyundai Motor America has to decide whether Hyundai dealers who sold Genesis vehicles in the past — some of whom invested in special improvements to their showrooms — will be allowed to service them in the future and participate in that revenue stream.
Smith said that "ideally," service will be strictly through the new Genesis stores.