CHICAGO — Hyundai is rolling out its Shopper Assurance program nationwide, the company said at the Chicago Auto Show, after piloting it in October at 43 dealerships in the Miami, Orlando, Dallas and Houston markets.
It has four elements: transparent pricing, flexible test drives, online transaction processing and a three-day money-back guarantee.
It builds on the Hyundai Assurance program offered by the automaker in 2009. That version also offered an easy return policy for buyers who lost their jobs — a twist that garnered considerable attention as the U.S. slid into the Great Recession.
As part of the new program, Hyundai has begun listing fair-market pricing online for each vehicle, emulating offerings from TrueCar and Edmunds. It allows customers to complete more shopping steps and paperwork online before they set foot in the dealership, as AutoNation Inc. and used-car outlets such as Carvana do. It also let customers test drive vehicles where they choose, bringing the vehicle to their home or office if they wish.
A Hyundai survey of program participants conducted in January found:
- 94 percent of customers either loved or liked the program's car-buying process.
- 56 percent said it played a role in their decision to buy a Hyundai.
- 53 percent now have a more positive opinion of the brand.
- 65 percent said the Shopper Assurance experience was much better than past car purchases.
"As soon as retailers see those numbers and see sales going up in those markets, they're all on board," Dean Evans, Hyundai Motor America chief marketing officer, told reporters at the auto show here.
Van Hyundai, a Dallas-area store that sells about 1,300 new and used vehicles a year, tested the program during the fourth quarter, said General Manager George Donaldson. During the test, no customer requested a flexible test drive or returned the car as part of the three-day money back guarantee. The dealership's website already provides payment transparency, "so they're not shocked when they come in by the payment," he said.
But the program did lift Van Hyundai's customer satisfaction scores, Donaldson said.
"It's a great program," he said. "We already have America's best warranty. Now we throw this on top of it and customers know we're confident in our product."
Some state auto dealer associations and lawyers have concerns over parts of Hyundai's program. For example, taking the vehicle to the customer for a test drive may pose safety issues for dealership personnel, and may prove especially problematic for female sales staffers, they say.
But Hyundai dealers, many of whom are resentful that they will not be able to bid for a Genesis franchise during the luxury brand's rollout, have not raised objections to the program, state association executives said.
Shopper Assurance applies to any in-stock Hyundai vehicle and is optional for the automaker's 820 dealerships in the U.S., though Evans expects a high dealership participation rate.
"We would like to have the majority of the network, 90 percent of the network, participating in the next 30 to 60 days," he said.
Evans said Hyundai also found that more than just millennials are using the program.
"It's easy to say millennials should really be attracted to it, but in our pilot markets, the general market is eating it up," Evans said. "Everyone realizes that a better car experience is something they think they need and it's the answer we're trying to get."