Published on October 12, 2007
Seo Il-sung, president of Hyundai Motor's regional headquarters, told the media yesterday that for Hyundai to compete head-on with Japanese brands in Thailand and Asean as it does elsewhere in the world, it would need its own plant.
Hyundai assembles vehicles in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, but does not own its own plant in any of these countries.
"The Japanese companies took 50 years to dominate the markets in this region and although the Asian market has grown into a priority for us, we need to take a step-by-step approach," he said.
"We have to be very careful."
Thailand is one of the toughest markets in the world, and it would be a challenge for Hyundai to grow here, he added.
"As you know, our products have changed a lot in the last few years. Until a few years ago, people trusted only Japanese products as being premium, but now it's different with brands like Samsung and LG. Thais can now buy Korean products without any hesitation at all. For cars, we have been absent from the Thai market for many years and we want people to come to our showroom and see the difference in the quality of our products," he said.
This is a gradual process and the challenge for Hyundai is the time needed for buyers here to find out about the quality of its cars, he said.
Hyundai has achieved tremendous success in major markets such as the United States as well as emerging markets like China and India, he said.
"In the JD Power and Associates index for initial quality 2006, Hyundai Motor Co was ranked third, surpassing famous auto-makers, and took first place among non-luxury brands," Seo said.
Hyundai can be recognised as the fastest-growing automobile brand in the world, he said.
Malaysia is Hyundai's largest market in the region, with sales expected to reach 20,000 units this year, followed by the Philippines with 8,000 vehicles and Indonesia with 5,000.
Here it hopes to sell 300 units by year-end, but Seo could not forecast next year's sales figures.
Yoshizumi Kurata, president of Hyundai Motor Thailand, the local distributor, said Hyundai's performance would depend on the acceptance of consumers.
He also said that for Hyundai to build a plant here, it needed to have enough volume in the region - up to 100,000 units.
To win customer acceptance, Hyundai has become the first in the country to offer a five-year unlimited mileage warranty. That applies to the Sonata midsize sedan, which is assembled from completely knocked-down kits at the Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant in Samut Prakan.
For the other two models unwrapped yesterday - the Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle and the Coupe sports car - Hyundai is offering a three-year/100,000-kilometre warranty.
"The five-year warranty is quality assurance for the Sonata while our 'Red Carpet Strategy' for after-sales service is provided by dealers in order to impress customers with excellent service. They combine into a package for our success in Thailand," Seo said.