Hyundai to Upgrade Its Brand Image for China's Emerging Middle Class

    The automaker, seeking to rebound from poor sales amid the THAAD disagreement between China and South Korea, is planning to open an experience center in a thriving Beijing art district.
    A Hyundai Genesis concept car. (Shutterstock)
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    As the Sino-Korean THAAD disagreements begin to simmer down, a number of Korean brands in China that were wounded by political tensions are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Hyundai Motor is one such company, hoping it can bounce back from a sales hit by beefing up its brand image. This time, the automaker whom many Beijingers would think of firstly in association with the capital's cab companies, is aiming to woo China's wealthy.

    Hyundai is set to open its first-ever store in China this September, but recent months have been marked by tension between the Chinese and South Korea governments over South Korea's deployment of an anti-missile defense system. The spat has also soured Chinese consumer sentiment towards Korean products and travel. However, Hyundai's challenges in China date back to before the THAAD disagreements boiled to the surface. The Korean auto giant has often struggled in China thanks to “poor brand recognition and a model line-up struggling against local brands' cheaper SUVs,” according to a recent article published by Reuters.

    To turn this around, Hyundai wants potential customers to become familiar with its luxury sedan, Genesis, and to do this, it's following a similar model to that adopted by Mercedes with its Beijing experience center. Hyundai's new store will be located among the upscale galleries and boutiques in Beijing's 798 Art District, and instead of serving as a sales floor, it will be focused toward brand building and customer experience.

    As an upmarket competitor, Mercedes puts a heavy emphasis on social media and fashionable events to target China's emerging young middle class and aspiring buyers in its “Mercedes me” experience center, located in the heart of Beijing's trendy shopping district, Sanlitun. The center, which features two restaurants, a bar, and a retail space that doesn't actually sell cars, but instead offers more affordable branded items and displays a few floor models that give interested customers a closer look at the hardware.

    Hyundai's premium offerings in China will also include SUVs and a sports sedan, all scheduled to be launched in the next two to three years.

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