Hyundai rising

New vehicles and clear priorities are expected to restore the auto brand’s prominence

BACK IN JUNE, representatives of Hyundai Motor Philippines (HMPH) first met with select members of the media to announce that the company was taking control of the passenger car portfolio of Hyundai in the country from longtime distributor group, Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), which had overseen the growth of the brand since 2001. HMPH assumes responsibility for Hyundai’s passenger car models, while HARI retains the trucks and buses of the South Korean marque.

Last Wednesday, HMPH made it public by staging a launch activity at Okada — first with the media at lunchtime, then bank partners in the evening.

The message is clear: Hyundai is back.

Just to underscore its resurrection in the country where it was once the third best-selling auto brand, Hyundai presented three all-new models (the Creta, Tucson, and Staria) and a refreshed nameplate (Santa Fe).

“This marks a major turning point for the car company, (which) aims to continue strengthening the brand while also renewing customers’ enthusiasm in its lineup of offerings,” HMPH said in a release.

The all-new, 4.3-meter-long second-generation Creta is positioned as a “premium B-segment SUV,” boasting the brand’s so-called “Sensuous Sportiness” design language. Powered by a 1.5-liter Smartstream gasoline engine mated with an improved CVT (the base model has a six-speed manual), the Creta is said to offer a “smoother and fuel-efficient ride without compromising power output.” It outputs 115ps and 144Nm. HMPH boasts that the Creta has the most number of active safety features in its segment. It has LED daytime running lamps and rear combination lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, and sporty bumpers.

Three variants are available, with the following prices: 1.5 GL 6MT (P998,000), 1.5 GL IVT (P1.17 million), and 1.5 GLS IVT (P1.332 million). The 1.5 GL IVT in “limited-red” edition retails for P1.323 million.

The much-awaited Starex successor, the futuristic-looking Staria, is now here in the country as well. It is headlined by a “lounge” concept, with a lower beltline and taller vehicle height — contributing to “a sense of openness.” The range-topping seven-seater variant gets premium design elements, smart sliding doors, a smart power tailgate, dual sunroofs, and a cache of active safety features. Meanwhile, the 11-seater commuter variant and a three-seater cargo variant boast twin swinging doors.

Four Staria variants are available: the 2.2 CRDi 6MT Cargo (P1.56 million), 2.2 CRDi 6MT Commuter (P1.85 million), 2.2 CRDi GLS+ 8AT (P2.32 million), and 2.2 CRDi Premium+ 8AT (P2.93 million).

Finally, two familiar nameplates round out the four-model juggernaut from HMPH. The all-new Tucson, the first SUV to bear the aforementioned “Sensuous Sportiness” design aesthetic, now gets an eye-catching front fascia with the Parametric Jewel Pattern Grille and unique side character lines. Stretching 4.6 meters long and with a wheelbase of 2.7 meters, the Tucson offers extra legroom. Buyers can choose between the diesel-powered variant (2.0 CRDi GLS+ 8AT) priced at P1.84 million or the gas-sipper (2.0 GLS 6AT), costing P1.57 million. The Smartstream D2.0 engine generates 186ps and 416Nm, while the Smartstream G2.0 submits 156ps and 192Nm.

The Santa Fe now gets T-shaped DRLs that create a unique light signature. These complement the cascading grille and front bumper which make the vehicle’s face look wider. Under the hood is a Smartstream 2.2 Diesel engine paired to eight-speed wet DCT, a first in Hyundai’s SUVs. Only one trim is offered, the 2.2 CRDi GLS 8DCT, priced at P2.42 million.

Aside from these, the refreshed portfolio of Hyundai will feature the flagship Palisade three-row SUV and the H100 workhorse.

At the helm of HMPH is the affable Lee Dong Wook, a longtime Hyundai hand with international stints in India and Malaysia. Perhaps more importantly, he has been exposed to, and been responsible for, Asia-Pacific markets.

The company explained that the key to restoring the brand’s prominence is “a nationwide service campaign and warranty program that aims to highlight the brand’s improved after-sales.” HMPH also intends to enhance the reach of the dealership network by growing the number outlets from 38 to 45 by 2023.

Additionally, Hyundai Live is slated for launch next month. “This is a two-way communication with our customers using the website as our online showroom that will provide information to meet (their) needs,” added Mr. Lee.

Before the end of the year, HMPH is set to grow its portfolio even further with the anticipated launch of the Stargazer MPV (which, along with the Creta, is manufactured in Indonesia) — expected to battle in the segment where the Mitsubishi Xpander and Toyota Avanza are. Also being studied is the launch of the Ioniq 5 full EV, and the Santa Fe Hybrid (See our Q&A with Mr. Lee).

To be scratched from the lineup are the Accent, Reina, Kona, and even the Venue.

HMPH is making sweeping changes inside and out — openly declaring that it is moving from the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI). “There are a lot of benefits in joining CAMPI and for us to join them at this opportune time would give us a huge boost. There is so much excitement and interest in what we will do next and we can’t wait to show everyone once again what Hyundai Motor is all about,” underscored Mr. Lee.

The executive had revealed in June, “Dealers would say ‘I don’t have any cars for display in my showroom. So many customers visit our showroom, and the customer (would ask) when can I buy our Hyundai cars? I gave a promise to our dealer principals like this: My first role is to fill up our cars in your showroom display, then customers will visit (so) they can enjoy and see the choices. We will move forward.”

Fast forward, it seems.