By Lee Ji-yoon
Hyundai Motor has set a new milestone in its global marketing activities to cultivate a premium brand image as overseas sales of its luxury sedans Genesis and Equus exceeded the 100,000 mark in the first half of this year.
According to industry sources, Genesis and Equus, the nation's largest carmaker's flagship upscale models, saw the number of deliveries reach 88,771 and 10,508, respectively, from January to June this year.
Hyundai, which has gained a reputation for building inexpensive, small cars, launched Genesis and new Equus in recent years, aiming to compete directly with European rivals such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
And its efforts have finally proved to be effective in overseas markets.
Genesis successfully debuted in the international market in 2008, selling 16,490 vehicles in the first year. However, hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2009, the sales figure dropped to 12,854 overseas.
Genesis did not stop its offensive, increasing sales to 22,222 units in 2010 and 23,256 in 2011. This year, its sales are expected to exceed 30,000 units for the first time.
Equus, which started its full-fledged global strategy in 2010, has seen its sales almost double from 2,124 units in 2010 to 4,662 last year. In the first half of this year alone, 3,354 Equus cars were exported to overseas markets.
What's more promising is Hyundai's sales growth in the US upscale car market where Genesis and Equus sell an average of 2,000 and 300 vehicles, respectively, per month.
According to Hyundai, its premium sedan deliveries surpassed 5,000 units in May in the US for the first time. The sales figure more than doubled compared to January.
In May, the carmaker delivered 67,019 vehicles in the highly competitive US market from a year ago. Of them, sales of luxury sedans made up 7.8 per cent, up from 5.3 per cent during the same period in 2011.
Genesis was the top seller at 2,309 units, followed by the Genesis Coupe with 1,519 deliveries. Grandeur and Equus brands also demonstrated steady growth, selling 1,053 and 351 vehicles, respectively.
The surge in sales of high-segment cars with more expensive price tags is also more profitable for Hyundai.
Hyundai posted 42.1 trillion won (S$47 billion) in sales and 4.7 trillion won in operating profit in the first half of this year. The ratio of operating profit to sales was 11.4 per cent, the highest-ever figure for Hyundai.
With increased brand power from luxury car sales, Hyundai's global sales increased 11.5 per cent to reach 2.18 million vehicles in the first half compared to the same period last year.
"Equus and Genesis are Hyundai's flagship models that are contributing to elevating the company's brand image in overseas markets," said a Hyundai official. "Based on the success of these models, we are transforming from a 'cheap car' maker to a premium brand."