Last year may have been a crisis year for most mass-market brands in Europe, but not for Hyundai, which boosted its new-car sales and increased its market share by a large margin.
Hyundai Europe Vice President Allan Rushforth can look back on a job well done. Most volume automakers in Europe benefited from government incentives that encouraged car owners to swap old cars for new ones, but the Korean brand's success was spectacular -- with a nearly 30 percent rise in European volume to a little more than 341,000 units, capturing 2.4 percent of the market, up from 1.9 percent in 2008.
Hyundai was able to benefit from scrappage schemes in markets such as Germany, France and Italy because in the two years since he joined Hyundai as vice president Rushforth had laid solid foundations to increase the professionalism of the brand's sales, marketing and distribution activities.
The energetic 50-year-old Englishman, who once represented Britain at the world triathlon championship, has 25 years experience in the auto business including spells with Rover, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen. He was also responsible for the launch and operation of Land Rover in Korea.
Rushforth has used his wide experience to create better relations between Hyundai's headquarters in Korea and Europe and between the company's European headquarters and its independent importers in different European markets.
Rushforth said Hyundai was able to benefit in such a big way from scrappage because it was able to step up production quickly and ensure that dealers were well stocked when buyers came looking to take advantage of the subsidy.
"Other manufacturers were exposed because they had severely cut back on production and they needed time to ramp up again. But one of Hyundai's strengths is its corporate culture of acting quickly," Rushforth said in an interview.
"We has the right cars available and briefed dealers on how to take advantage of scrappage bonuses," he added.
In recent years Hyundai has turned its focus heavily on Europe as it aims to become one of the region's top brands, opening a new European sales and marketing headquarters in Offenbach, near Frankfurt in Germany, and expanding its European design and technical center in nearby Ruesselsheim as well as building a 200,000-unit capacity factory in the Czech Republic.
The company aims for 500,000 annual sales in Europe by 2012, a target Rushforth says is achievable.
"Hyundai has new, attractively designed cars for the European market with low CO2 emissions that are good value for the customer,” he said. “Scrappage accelerated our growth but we are not complacent and we will continue to work hard to build Hyundai into one of Europe's top brands."