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Hyundai Equus customers: Prepare for pampering by dealers--and you get an iPad

Fri, 02 Apr 2010

Hyundai's upcoming flagship Equus sedan is packed with features to pamper owners and passengers: a rear-seat footrest, rain-repellent window glass, power sun shades, and massage systems built into the driver's seat and rear seat.

But Hyundai's dealers will have to do a little pampering of their own if they want to sell the car, which Hyundai showed today at the New York auto show.

Equus owners will enjoy free at-home pickup of the car for servicing and a free loaner Equus for their inconvenience.

Interested buyers can have an Equus brought to their home to inspect and a dealership salesperson will do an on-site walkaround to discuss the features. If a customer buys an Equus, a salesperson will return to the buyer's home later to discuss the car's performance.

Touch of technology

Hyundai will give each buyer an Apple iPad on the assumption that he or she will use the device to stay in touch with the dealership.

Dealers may opt in to selling the car, which Hyundai CEO John Krafcik said today will retail for “somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000” when it goes on sale this year.

Hyundai hopes to use the Equus to entice its U.S. retailers to a higher level of operation, said Dave Zuchowski, vice president of sales for Hyundai Motor America.

“We want to improve the experience and appearance of our stores,” he said. “Buyers of cars in this segment have higher expectations for their sales experience. And we're asking our dealers to meet those higher expectations.”

Hyundai is asking dealers to create a dedicated Equus sales area that has special flooring and lighting and is backed by a “brand wall” that displays information about Hyundai. Zuchowski estimated that the store alterations can be made for less than $30,000, although some stores could spend as much as $75,000.

He predicted that 250 to 300 of the brand's 790 dealers would opt to sell the Equus. “But if we only end up with 150 dealers, that's OK, too,” Zuchowski said.

He emphasized that the Equus will not represent a separate dealer agreement.

Zuchowski said there will be unique advertising guidelines to market the car.

Company officials will gather dealers this month in Montgomery, Ala., for a meeting to go over the business plans behind the Equus.

In New York today, officials pitted the new product against the Lexus LS 460, that luxury brand's flagship sedan, which starts at about $66,000.

“It is impressive that Hyundai is going this direction,” said Dan Gorrell, president of AutoStrategem, an auto research and consulting firm in North Tustin, Calif. “There is obviously the halo effect over other Hyundai products. But they also have an opportunity to help their dealers improve the whole brand experience.

“The challenge for them will be ensuring that Hyundai's dealers really do a good job with it,” Gorrell added. “The luxury experience is something the Hyundai brand hasn't been known for.”

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