New Hyundai Europe Chief Operating Officer Thomas Schmid expects record sales this year, but he says the brand will not grow as quickly as it did in the past. Hyundai Europe’s new focus is on boosting profits by transforming into an emotional choice capable of charging higher starting prices. Schmid, an Austrian national who was Hyundai Europe sales boss until his promotion in March, shared the plan with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Christiaan Hetzner
Hyundai’s European sales stagnated last year at about 424,000 after declining nearly 3 percent from a 2012 peak of 435,000 cars. Your market share dropped slightly for the second year in a row. Is the growth spurt over?
We had our best ever first half so I expect to sell 440,000 to 450,000 vehicles in Europe for the full year. But it won’t be like it was from 2001 to 2012, when we had years of extreme growth, and that’s OK because it is no longer our goal. Our vice chairman doesn’t want us to become the biggest carmaker in the world. His goal is to make Hyundai the most loved brand.
Does Hyundai still aim to have a 5 percent market share in Europe by 2020?
That is still an aim but it does not have to be reached by 2020. It’s much more about making a profit and achieving sustainable growth. It is not enough to be perceived by buyers only as a value-for-money brand. That is why in 2013 we started to position Hyundai as a brand that makes premium quality accessible for everyone. But you cannot push volume at the same time you increase prices and try to change public opinion. Therefore, we were extremely happy to have very stable volume, which we managed while consistently being below the market average in terms of incentive spending.