Hyundai Motor UK chief executive Tony Whitehorn has warned that the automotive sector must adopt a blended and flexible approach to adapt to the changing retail environment.
Whitehorn will join a line-up of experts to explore how automotive retail will evolve over the next decade as part of Automotive Management Live’s ‘Vision of the Future’ seminars, which will take place at the leading car retail expo at Birmingham’s NEC on November 8.
“The key word for what is happening in the industry at the moment is ‘change’, the key focus should be on being as flexible as possible,” said Whithorn, who led the Korean brand’s push into digital retail in partnership with omni-channel car retail specialist Rockar.
Whitehorn identifies three main considerations which the car retail sector needs to prepare for:
1) Technology whether that be autonomy, propulsion, telematics and connectivity.
2) Where will people purchase products.
3) How will they purchase them.
As part of its strategy to meet the future needs of drivers, Hyundai is bringing new technology to market, offering a broad range of propulsion options including, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, full electric and fuel cell electric.
Having spearheaded the retail store concept, opening stores at Bluewater and Stratford and launching its digital retail initiative Click to Buy online system in partnership with Rockar, the brand is also looking at providing purchasing alternatives with several Fintech options currently under investigation.
Whitehorn will draw on Hyundai’s digital experiences which saw it partner Rockar to open the first omni-channel car retail experience in November 2014.
This ‘clicks & bricks’ approach created a blend of digital and physical hybrid stores.
Hyundai attracted a new profile of customer with 75% of store customers having never bought a new car before and 94% of customers new to the brand.
Customers were much younger, aged 37 compared to 59 years-old and 58% of all sales were to women.
Added Whitehorn: “One of the most interesting learnings though was that 95% of customers lived within a 10-mile radius of the stores – which proved that irrespective of how the car was purchased (whether online or in store) a relationship with a local dealer was important to those customers.
“Our learnings have helped to shape our retail strategy and proved that a blended, flexible and transparent approach is key. I have always said that if you want to revolutionise the retail experience you need to take the dealer network with you and that is what is at the heart of our approach moving forward.
“A blended approach is imperative. There will undoubtedly be a greater move towards online –selling in line with what is happening across the retail sector but whilst there will be people who are very happy to buy online, there will also be people who want to purchase in a more traditional manner.
“In the long term, expertise within franchise dealerships will increase with greater training which will have an impact on independent repairers.
“The rise of electric cars will also impact service times and profitability but this won’t be felt fully until 2040.
“As a business, we are focussing on the continuous training of our dealership staff and we have introduced and are now rolling out our unique and industry-leading aftersales system Hyundai Workshop Automation.”