To encourage them on board, the Korean brand has launched two innovative incentives to help a crunched market.
The first is called ‘Project Landlord’. This is aimed at getting the Hyundai name into the key territories it’s earmarked, explains Whitehorn. ‘Metropolitan locations are key for us; we already do well in rural areas.
‘Basically, we buy the dealership in the key territory – and appoint someone to run it.’ This is already underway in Nottingham, and Whitehorn sees it as a more manageable way of growing the brand.
But the brand’s other initiative is even more innovative. ‘Here, we appoint ‘sponsored retailers,’ says the former Toyota GB operations director. It’s all about entrepreneurship.
‘We give a lease to an entrepreneur, of a decade or more. This helps them attract a lot of key people – first and foremost, banks. We give them a ‘soft loan’ over a long period, which the banks see as equity.’
How much is on the table? ‘Well, if you have £200k, and there’s £500k of equity from us, banks will see this proposition as far more compelling to loan against…’
Whitehorn expects both initiatives will attract plenty of interest. At the right time, too. The brand, he says, is well placed to prosper in the coming year.
‘2009 will be the year of the B segment – and, with the i10, plus next January’s new i20, our dealers will have cars in the heart of the volume.’ That crucial i20 supermini will be launched to dealers in December.
The maker intends to grow, and has eyes on a 3 per cent market share. ‘We expect to sell 32k cars by 2008 and 40k cars in 2009, but it’s very market-dependent.’
By 2012, we had said 70k cars, but if the market drops to 2 million, three per cent becomes 60k.’
It’s a similar situation for dealer numbers. Hyundai’s aims are for around 160-180 dealers, but ‘you can’t be focused on a single number. Conditions are changing all the time.’
By RICHARD AUCOCK