2009 New York: Hyundai celebrates Genesis success, flat sales

“Flat is the new up,” says Hyundai’s U.S. head in regards to sales.

During a media dinner on the eve of the New York Auto Show, Hyundai Motor America’s head, John Krafcik, reflected on Hyundai’s relatively good position in light of the economic downturn: “I never thought that I’d be happy to say that having our sales be flat is a good thing,” he announced, “but in a market that’s down 37% overall, we’re happy. Flat is the new up!”

Krafcik and his team at Hyundai Motor America have other reasons to be happy. In 2008, Hyundai had 3% of the U.S. new-car market, but their research shows that, in 2009, some 26% of people who intend to buy a new car have Hyundai on their shopping lists. “The Genesis is the ultimate stigma buster,” boasts Krafcik. “It’s an image leader [for us]. It gives people some ‘cover’ to consider other Hyundais, now that it’s won the [North American] Car of the Year.”

Krafcik expects the Genesis to benefit from the economic slowdown due to a “reverse social stigma” in owning premium brands. A CEO of a company, he points out, can buy a Genesis and enjoy most if not all of the same features and benefits as a BMW or Mercedes, but be able to tell his employees, “Yeah, I bought a new car. A Hyundai.”

Genesis, Krafcik continued, could become its own brand, with several models, especially since Hyundai Motor Corporation decided against doing a separate luxury sales channel, a decision Krafcik describes as “being…very sage.”