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Hyundai Hopes New Ad Campaign will Equate Azera

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Hyundai Hopes New Ad Campaign will Equate Azera with Luxury

By GREG BOWENS | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

AutoWeek | Published 02/14/06, 9:01 am et

DETROIT -- Hyundai Motor America is earmarking 20 percent of its media advertising spending this year to launch the Azera -- its first foray into the premium market.

To help pay for the launch of the mid-sized sedan, Hyundai officials say they are boosting the company's media spending by as much as 40 percent in 2006.

"We know we have a job to do with a new name, a new product, in a new segment for us," said Michelle Cervantez, Hyundai's vice president of marketing.

"We want to make sure consumers understand that this is a Hyundai you may not have experienced in the past," Cervantez told Automotive News at last month's Detroit auto show.

Cervantez would not disclose the cost of the Azera launch. Hyundai division spent $232.2 million to advertise in U.S. media in the first half of 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The Azera went on sale late last year. A national TV advertising campaign for the car, called "Ripples," began this month.

The base-model Azera lists for $24,995, including shipping. Cervantez says Hyundai seeks to gain conquest sales for the Azera from such cars as the Ford Five Hundred and Nissan Maxima.

Other sales leaders in the mid-range premium segment are the Chrysler 300, Buick LaCrosse, Dodge Magnum and Volkswagen Passat. Sales in the segment rose by 51.4 percent last year over 2004.

Bring it on

Hyundai dealers say they are looking forward to the Azera ad campaign.

"Our expectations are high," says Jimmy Ellis, of Jim Ellis Hyundai of Atlanta. "We have sold a good many more (Azeras) than we did when (Hyundai) launched the XG350. That came with a lot of fanfare and a lot of noise. But it has taken the market a while to adjust to the idea of an expensive Hyundai."

Says Bill Drew, of Drew Ford-Volkswagen-Hyundai-Isuzu in La Mesa, Calif.: "People have to know about the vehicle first. That will take some time. It will get us into the game and into the upper-end arena we have been trying to get into."

The Azera TV spots will run on broadcast networks and on such cable networks as Fox News Channel, CNBC, Travel Channel, National Geographic Channel and Fine Living.

The print campaign will appear in March editions of such magazines as Golf Digest, SmartMoney, Newsweek, Forbes and The New Yorker.

Hard road

Industry analysts say Hyundai, a brand known for value, faces an uphill climb in establishing the Azera in the premium segment.

"The Azera may be the most successful automobile to ever roll out of an assembly plant, but I am not going to put 50 cents on it being successful," says Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. "Developing a brand in the upscale range is very difficult."

Consumers who buy costlier vehicles seek the status of an upscale brand, Bernacchi says. Hyundai, he says, does not connote status.

Jesse Toprak, an analyst for the automotive Web site Edmunds.com, says Hyundai has a history of loading up its vehicles and offering them at bargain prices.

"If they essentially offer people $40,000 worth of car for less than $30,000, they could be successful," Toprak says. "That's how they went head-to-head with Toyota in the small-car segment."

Hyundai's Cervantez says the company is eager to chip away at its bargain image with the Azera campaign.

"We can't have any patience," Cervantez says. "I think our patience is done. We need to get out there."

Link: http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...1024/LATESTNEWS

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"Our expectations are high," says Jimmy Ellis, of Jim Ellis Hyundai of Atlanta. "We have sold a good many more (Azeras) than we did when (Hyundai) launched the XG350. That came with a lot of fanfare and a lot of noise. But it has taken the market a while to adjust to the idea of an expensive Hyundai."

Don't blame the market; blame the fact that the XG350 was a very dopey and awkward-looking car with traditional throwback domestic Asian large car styling.

Hyundai's Cervantez says the company is eager to chip away at its bargain image with the Azera campaign.

The solution to this would to go over the Azera's interior again, evidenced here...

Posted Image

...with the handful of deadplates concealing unbought options, massive chime speaker obscenly placed on the dash, and an uncoordinated center stack with the same cheesy green LCD backlighting used on the Elantra and Rio. In fact, much of the switchgear on the Azera I saw back in November at the Tampa Auto Show came out of the Elantra I was then driving as a rental.

Also, the example I saw firsthand had pretty bad build quality. The corners of the dash didn't match up to the door panels on either side and the rear armrest wouldn't stay flush.

Obviously, haven't driven one yet, but if its anything like the handful of late-model ones I have (Elantra, Optima, Amanti, last Sonata) with their irritating traits like too-short sunvisors, horizontal ignition slots, steering columns that lock randomly, unprogrammable door locks, and six different high-pitched 'ding' chimes...*shudder*.

Is it better than the XG? Sure. But so is a '97 LeSabre. Hyundai still has a way to go in terms of evacuating the Koreanness out of their lineup.

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I saw one of these azeras this past weekend. It drove slowly past me in a parking lot; I saw it from the side then eventually from the rear. For a few moments I thought it was a mazda 929. How long since the 929 was new?

Typically, it looks 'off' but nice enough to undermine nissan, toyota, etc. Whether or not it's a complete horror show to drive/operate is another matter.

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I checked the Azera out in Detroit. Unless you are dead-set on having a more powerful engine, I really see no reason to choose the Azera over a loaded Sonata. Not only for the reasons Fly mentioned, but, for a "full-sized car", the Azera isn't really much roomier than the Sonata. In fact, compared to the Toyota Avalon, the Azera felt rather claustrophobic, IMO. Sitting inside the Avalon is like sitting inside your own private Yacht: vast expanses of empty space surround you, shiny, silver do-dads are at your fingertips, and you're at the helm. The Azera is more like sitting inside, well, a slightly bigger Elantra, like Fly said. You may have payed thousands of dollars less than the Avalon would've cost, true... but compare the two, and you'll see where those thousands of dollars go.

I will give the Azera credit: It is light years ahead of the old XG. The trouble is, the XG was a terrible car, and the competition has moved ahead. The lesson? Don't benchmark, plan ahead so that your model stays competitive throughout its lifespan (that goes for you, too, Detroit!).

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The recent MT comparo between this, the Avalon and Passat (no Lucerne, which would have been better than the Passat) placed the Azera in dead last.

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I checked the Azera out in Detroit. Unless you are dead-set on having a more powerful engine, I really see no reason to choose the Azera over a loaded Sonata. Not only for the reasons Fly mentioned, but, for a "full-sized car", the Azera isn't really much roomier than the Sonata. In fact, compared to the Toyota Avalon, the Azera felt rather claustrophobic, IMO. Sitting inside the Avalon is like sitting inside your own private Yacht: vast expanses of empty space surround you, shiny, silver do-dads are at your fingertips, and you're at the helm. The Azera is more like sitting inside, well, a slightly bigger Elantra, like Fly said. You may have payed thousands of dollars less than the Avalon would've cost, true... but compare the two, and you'll see where those thousands of dollars go.

I will give the Azera credit: It is light years ahead of the old XG. The trouble is, the XG was a terrible car, and the competition has moved ahead. The lesson? Don't benchmark, plan ahead so that your model stays competitive throughout its lifespan (that goes for you, too, Detroit!).

I know what you're saying... in their ads, Hyundai claims that the Azera has a larger interior than a 760Li. Sure doesn't feel like it.

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I know what you're saying... in their ads, Hyundai claims that the Azera has a larger interior than a 760Li. Sure doesn't feel like it.

Actually, they say more than the 760i (no "L" -- short-wheelbase) and on paper it's true with the expection of shoulder room. But if it doesn't feel like it, it must be a bad interior layout/packaging.

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Guest gmrebirth

Interior volume is easily & often a misleading figure.

I agree, that's very true.

Even though the Sonata is considered a "full size" car, in terms of actual usable space, it's not that much better than a Camry or Accord. In fact, I think the Camry has a more comfy rear. Plus, the Sonata doesn't look fullsize to me at all.

The Azera actually looks fullsize, but I feel it's got a big mix of styling cues from different brands. Usable interior room is not that much better than the Sonata either. More power than the Sonata is nice, but fuel economy could be better.

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