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Hyundai gives training the red carpet treatment

Investment in its own training centre is seen as an essential part of Hyundai Motor UK’s strategy to improve its dealers and draw in more customers.

The company has just opened the Hyundai Academy at High Wycombe, a bespoke, branded facility with a mock two-car showroom, a 7-bay workshop area, multimedia equipped classrooms, computer suite and canteen.

It will train 16,000 delegates a year from the retail network and head office.

Hyundai has ambitions of becoming a 5% market share player in the UK new car market, and that means bringing in many new customers to the brand and impressing them with dealers’ professionalism, skills and processes.

Managing director Tony Whitehorn told AM: “We’ve tried to get real consistency with production, advertising, communication and the look and feel of dealerships with the new showroom identity, but we need more consistency with regards to process, skillsets and methods.

"The best way is through training and development.

“We don’t want to take personality out of people, but we want a minimum standard of process and skillset.”

Many new dealers are joining the brand – the network will be up to 157 dealerships by the end of 2011 – and HMUK’s “serious investment” in the Hyundai Academy will give a consistent feel to their staff as they undergo training, he said.

For some dealer staff, this will be their only touchpoint with HMUK outside their own place of work so it is important that they are steeped into a Hyundai environment.

Previously training was conducted regionally in hotels or rented facilities or at dealerships.

A little of that will continue, but 80% will now take place at the High Wycombe site.

A training needs analysis has already been done, which consulted sales managers, aftersales managers and dealer principals on what was needed for personal development and improving the business overall.

That analysis is being fed into tailoring the courses the academy will provide.

Many of the recent recruits to the Hyundai franchise are regional groups.

These have geographical strength and loyalty, but also are often cash rich with the financial acumen to work with a franchise which is growing.

Some are replacing older Hyundai partners who cannot or will not invest to handle the growth in vol-umes the brand requires.

In this case, said Whitehorn, it is important to ease the transition so that cust-omers are not adversely affected.

Improved existing dealer performance and new partnerships are essential for HMUK’s growth.

This year it expects to achieve 65,000 registrations, double the volume it achieved three years ago.

In the coming years it wants to grow further to 100,000 annual new car sales, which would put it ahead of rivals such as Renault and Honda.

It is already Hyundai’s second largest territory in Europe, after Germany.

Whitehorn wants to bring its sales mix more in line with the national market. At present 65% of Hyundai’s registrations are retail, compared to a total UK market that is split 40% retail and 60% fleets and business sales.

To this end, it has partnered with vehicle funding and management company ALD Automotive to form Hyundai Contract Hire.

All franchisees will be trained in contract hire finance. A further phase will be the appointment of some corporate dealers with specialist staff, to which HMUK will channel larger companies.

HMUK wants all its dealers to get into their local small businesses to promote its contract hire rates on offer.

With the D-segment i40 entering the range next month, the brand will have a full portfolio of European-designed vehicles.

The Veloster coupé, due at the end of the year, will be a halo product.

Dealers will benefit from this growth if they secure service work from business customers.

A national menu pricing programme for aftersales is being put in place for national fleet and contract hire customers.

Whitehorn said this is key in ensuring a consistent service for these customers as dealers’ service parc grows.

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