Hyundai CMO Evans: '94% of customers like or love our car-buying process'

Hyundai CMO Dean Evans discussed Shopper Assurance, the carmaker's push for greater brand transparency / JD Power

94% of Hyundai shoppers either 'like' or 'love' Shopper Assurance, Hyundai’s recently-rebuilt car-buying process.

The finding was one of a few discussed by Dean Evans, Hyundai North America’s chief marketer at the JD Power Automobile Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas. After piloting the program in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami in 2017, Evans took the program nationwide across 330 dealerships. In a keynote to automobile marketers, Evans spoke on the premise behind the brand and other findings of the study.

“JD Power kindly reminded us that they rank all auto brands on the statistic: how much time it takes to make a transaction,” said Evans. “We were dead-last, at five-and-a-half hours.”

As a result, Evans and team looked at ways to make the process more frictionless. Hyundai launched Shopper Assurance, a four-pillar pledge to consumers that gave transparent pricing, online transaction processing for credit and other necessities normally addressed at dealerships, remote test driving, and a three-day worry-free exchange policy.

The first two pillars were based off of what had become the new norm in car purchasing experience. Since the advent of the internet, car brands had often advertised MSRPs, which had driven haggling for better pricing.

“There’s about 100 yards between the MSRP and the transaction price,” Evans explained, “and companies made billions of dollars off of one button called ‘Get a Quote’.”

Eventually, reference guides such as Kelley Blue Book and newcomer TrueCar allowed customers to get a better look at what they should spend on cars after dealer discounts and other rebates were factored in.

According to Evans: “More of our customers, more than anyone, were using TrueCar.”

They also had sites such as used-car marketplace Carvana at their disposal, which has given customers the opportunity to apply for credit for leasing. Through Shopper Assurance, most transactionary paperwork a customer would normally take hours filling out at a dealership, has been facilitated online.

By reducing friction on the front-end, Shopper Assurance has allowed dealers to focus on one major thing, said Evans: merchandizing its fleet of vehicles. “In the old process,” Evans said, “we were burning people out so much by the time we got to the test drive. Once we’re done, we’d give a 10-minute thing around the store and ask ‘Are you ready to go?’”

Now, Hyundai shoppers have the ability to do test drives remotely, where dealers can drop off cars at prospects’ jobs and homes. And if they decide to purchase, they have three days to figure out if the final decision they made was the right one.

65% of those who have used Shopper Assurance found it better than past car purchases, and 56% said it played a role in their decision to purchase a Hyundai.

Evans said that giving up the chance to negotiate, and the benefits of it, was a scary proposition for some dealers. “That is the core competency of a dealer’s DNA: the negotiation piece. It isn’t anymore, and that’s a hard thing to give up."

However, Shopper Assurance wasn’t built as a ploy to phase out the car salesman, of which Evans said will still exist as carmakers inch towards inching autonomous vehicles. “We’re not selling this as a full e-commerce solution…this is about all of us doing this together. This isn't us trying to figure out how to do it without you. To me that is the most important position we can have as a brand today. I can't say what's going to happen in 10 years, but today we need them.

“It's a competitive advantage to us, because everyone else is trying to take the sales person out of the mix. I'm just trying to bring a better salesperson into the mix with the better technology and a better north star.”

As for whether Shopper Assurance has helped cut into the nearly-six hour average dealership visit, Evans said he's waiting 'with bated breath' for JD Power's results to arrive by year's end.

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