It's been a long time coming, but Hyundai is finally a crossover brand, with light-truck sales reaching 53 percent of the mix last year, driving an overall U.S. sales gain of 3 percent and a retail sales gain of 5 percent. That's a sea change for the Korean brand after years in which the dealer body struggled with too many cars and a limited offering of utilities.
Hyundai begins 2020 with five mainstream crossovers, including the all-new Venue that want on sale last year. The product onslaught has dealers optimistic about the next 12 months and beyond, said Scott Stark, national dealer council chairman and president of South Point Automotive in Austin, Texas, which has Hyundai and Genesis stores.
"Our product portfolio, I think it's as exciting as it's ever been. I've been a Hyundai dealer long enough to remember when the market was 65 [percent] trucks and CUVs to 35 [percent] passenger cars, and we were pushing an 80 [percent car] to 20 [percent truck] mix," Stark said.
"But when you start to look at the product that Hyundai has not only currently out, but just in the pipeline — I tell my folks that great product makes average salespeople look great and poor product makes great salespeople people look average. And really, I'm excited about the product," he said.
The new year also brought a new compensation model from Hyundai Motor America that Hyundai and Genesis dealers are still digesting. The rewards from the factory programs are tied to customer satisfaction scores and facility upgrades, in part. Stark thinks they're more than reasonable but may have to be tweaked as retailers see the real-life results.
"I think that these programs that are coming out certainly have the possibility and the intent to be wildly successful for the dealer body," he said. "But just as with any new program — these things were announced on Jan. 3 — it's hard for me to stick a flag in the ground and claim ultimate success. But I do think they can have some very positive impact."
Other bright spots are Hyundai's CPO program, overall dealer profitability and the company's global investments in electrification and autonomous driving — technologies that could have a big impact sometime in the future, he said.