With last year's overall sales up just over 3 percent and retail sales up 5 percent, Hyundai had something of a banner year despite the mild downturn in the U.S. auto market. And with products such as the new Palisade three-row crossover flying off dealer lots and the Santa Cruz pickup around the corner, it's a pretty good time to be a Hyundai dealer.
So says Scott Stark, national dealer council chairman and president of South Point Automotive in Austin, Texas, which also sells luxury brand Genesis. South Point has a Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram dealership just down the I-35 from the Hyundai store. Stark, 57, started in the business washing cars and sweeping the service area at a dealership while in high school.
"I really enjoy working with the guys at Hyundai — I don't know if it's because we're a challenger brand and we're competitive," Stark said. "I won't tell you that we don't have passionate disagreements, but by and large everyone is trying to move in the same direction."
One area of some disagreement among Hyundai dealers in general is over the details of the new Accelerate compensation program at Hyundai and Keystone program at Genesis, which were presented to dealers in January. Stark said Hyundai executives have been very open to input on the program, and he sees it as a net positive for profitability.
"I do believe that we have a good plan on the table," Stark said. "But the real test is its execution, and as these programs are put into the mainstream, we'll have to modify on the fly."
Stark spoke with Staff Reporter Laurence Iliff. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What are some of the priorities for the dealer council this year?
A: We have a lot of new programs on the table. You know, there's some significant dynamic changes in, for lack of a better term, the dealers' pay plan.
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. And that was a tough struggle. 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.
I think that these (compensation) programs that are coming out certainly have the possibility and the intent to be wildly successful for the dealer body. 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 on the dealers.