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Hyundai Thinking Of You: But Will You Think Of Them?

Friday, 5 Oct 2007 | 10:12 AM ET
AP

Quick, when I mention Hyundai, what do you think? If it's along the lines of "well made cars for the middle and entry level markets" you are not alone. In fact, this reputation for solid but inexpensive cars has the Korean automaker at a crossroads.

After consistantly growing sales and improving the quality of its vehicles, Hyundai has roughly 2.5% of the U.S. auto market. But to break out and grow sales, Hyundai has to change its image.

That's why the company has launched a massive marketing campaign called Thinkaboutit.com. It's complete with image TV commercials that have no or only a few shots of Hyundai models. The idea: get people to see Hyundai as more. To someday convince people they could buy an upper end, even luxury model from the Korean automaker.

Will it work? The campaign should help raise Hyundai's profile. But my gut says that the company will struggle getting in to the luxury car business using the Hyundai name. I think they would have more success creating a separate brand, much as Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura, and Nissan has Infiniti. Remember what Volkswagen learned with the Tuarag and Phaeton. It's very tough to change the perception of a brand. Think about it.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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