A chat with Jin (James) Kim, Vice-President and Head of Operations for Africa and the Middle East.
How is Hyundai placed in the GCC region’s automobiles sector?
Hyundai Motor Company is the second-biggest automotive manufacturer in the GCC and our 2014 sales accounted for 12 per cent of total sales. Our bestselling models include the Elantra, Accent and, from our SUV range, the Tucson.
How was the company’s performance last year? How did it fare in the first half of 2015 in terms of growth, sales and customer service?
The market share for Hyundai Motor Company in the MENA region was 15 per cent during the first half of 2015 and we saw a steady increase in sales with 103,669 models purchased by customers. When it comes to our service levels, 98 per cent of our customers reported that they were satisfied with the service that they received and we are continuing to strive to become one of the world’s most beloved brands.
How are the decreasing oil prices and disparity of currency affecting the automotive industry in the GCC? Do you have a negative or positive view?
We remain positive. After all, oil prices have always been prone to fluctuations and have had very little effect on our business in the past. Regarding currencies, while there is uncertainty, we remain committed to offering our customers a varied model portfolio at an affordable price point across the region and are therefore confident about the future of our brand.
Has Hyundai witnessed a shift in SUV sales following the increase in petrol prices after the deregulation of fuel prices in the UAE?
We haven’t witnessed a decrease in SUV sales since the petrol prices went up and the All-New Tucson, which we launched in August, has been very well received, showing buyer confidence. The petrol price hike been so minimal – for the average driver in the UAE it is around AED150 to AED200 a month – that we don’t anticipate any decreases in SUV sales in the coming months. We remain confident about our growth in this competitive segment. Proof of this is the forthcoming launch of the Creta: a totally new compact SUV, which will launch in Africa and the Middle East in November, increasing our four-wheel-drive portfolio to four: the All-New Tucson, Santa Fe, Grand Santa Fe and now the Creta.
Hybrid cars are starting to play an important role in the automotive industry in the UAE. What are Hyundai’s plans in this sector?
Here at Hyundai Motor Company, our vision is to improve our vehicles’ fuel efficiency short term, while developing eco-friendly cars, such as biofuel, hybrid, electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles, with the ultimate goal of developing vehicles with zero CO₂ emissions. In the final quarter of this year, we will launch the All-New Sonata Hybrid – Hyundai’s first ever plug-in hybrid model, which combines redefined design and innovative technology. Showcasing our dedication to sustainable mobility, we are extremely excited about the launch.
Have you witnessed any change in customers’ buying habits in the GCC?
We have found that GCC customers generally want to purchase dynamic, well-built vehicles that are both great to drive on the road and also have the technological advancements that keep people connected on the move. This is good news for us, as our current fleet offers plenty of variety in order to appeal to everyone on all of these fronts and at all price points.
Customers also want to drive vehicles that put safety first. Just recently our All-New Tucson and All-New Sonata models received a superior rating from the prestigious US IIHS Top Safety Pick+ awards body in the crash-prevention testing, which makes these models even more appealing to customers.
What do you predict will be the key automotive trend in the next few years?
We predict that there will be an even higher demand for SUVs and crossover vehicles in the coming years. Advanced engine technologies mean that 4X4s, which used to be considered as ‘gas guzzlers,’ can now be fitted with smaller, more efficient engines, which produce less emissions and are more economical, making them more appealing. In response to this trend, we are of course introducing our most affordable SUV yet, in the form of the new Creta, which will expand our portfolio.
This interview has appeared in Arabic in AMEinfo’s sister publication Saneou al Hadath