Tony Whitehorn has quit as Toyota GB’s operations director to take charge at Hyundai Motor UK on November 21. He says Hyundai “is widely recognised as a brand on the rise, with a highly respected UK dealer network,” but he will discover considerable discontent.
Dealers hope Whitehorn will take a firm grip on the business which, say some in the network, has been in disarray since the South Korean vehicle manufacturer took control in July.
HMUK, part of Hyundai Motor Europe, replaced a subsidiary of RAC plc, which was bought this year by Aviva plc, owner of Norwich Union insurance.
Ray Pope, appointed managing director to succeed David Walker, is returning to his old job of finance director. One dealer says: “We knew Pope was interim MD – the problem with that was that we would hear about a bonus scheme from him, only to have it countermanded the next day.
“The Koreans haven’t a clue how to operate in a market as competitive as the UK’s. Hyundai has been like a rudderless ship, and we’ve had a miserable time.”
Four months ago, Pope said Hyundai would double its annual UK car sales to around 80,000 by 2008 by investing heavily in price cuts and special offers.
Dealers hope this will be the basis of a new strategy now expected in early 2006. They say Hyundai’s 10-model range is far too large for its market share (1.51% to the end of October).
Pre-registrations have been widespread, say dealers, to put Hyundai only 124 units down in January-October compared with 2004. “We can exceed our allocated sales target for one month,” says one dealer. “But those cars can be still hanging around the following month.
The Koreans fail to understand you need organic growth to build image and protect residuals.”