Hyundai may be one of the world’s largest car companies, selling some 5 million vehicles a year worldwide, and the company’s constant TV advertising has at least drilled into viewers’ head that it’s pronounced “Hyundai like Sunday.” But the Korean automaker is still a bit player in the U.S., responsible for only 1-in-25 cars on American streets. In an effort to stake a bigger claim stateside, Hyundai has introduced a new program intended to provide more transparent pricing and more consumer-friendly practices.
Dubbed “Shopper Assurance,” the program — announced today at a broadcast press event — Hyundai is seeking to combine some of the ease of online shopping while simultaneously not abandoning its network of authorized dealers.
Rather than just listing MSRPs of a representative vehicle on its website and letting you find out what you’re really expected to pay when you show up at the dealer, Hyundai says that “participating dealers” (this is important as you’ll see in a second) will list the actual asking prices for the specific vehicles in their inventory.
But unless you live in Texas or Florida, don’t expect this transparent pricing just yet. As of right now, only 31 dealerships — 13 in Texas, plus another 18 in Florida — are part of this program. Hyundai says the goal is to offer it nationally and that it will update the participating dealership list at the bottom of of the Shopper Assurance page as dealers sign on.
Test Drive In Your Neighborhood
It’s never a bad idea to log some miles behind the wheel of a new car before you decide to buy it, but if you’ve ever gone to a dealership for a test drive, you are probably familiar with the high-pressure sales tactics that can be used to make sure you don’t leave the lot after a test drive without buying.
In an attempt to minimize the amount of time car-buyers spend dealing with a dealer, Hyundai (or rather, participating Hyundai dealerships; see above) will let customers schedule a time to do the test drives somewhere else, like their homes or offices.
Doing Paperwork Online
Another dreadful part of the dealership experience is being rushed through things like credit applications, or having to decide on the spot that you’re okay with the trade-in offer for your current car.
Hyundai hopes to quell some of these concerns by allowing customers to apply for credit, see a final calculation of the total cost of the car, and lock in the value of their trade-in — all online, without having to deal with salespeople.
3-Day Return Window
Regretting a car purchase is usually something that takes more than a few days, but if you do have a problem with your new Hyundai within the first three days (four, if the dealer is closed for business one of those first few days), the carmaker says you’ll be able to return it and get all your money back.
This, of course, comes with the usual raft of expected caveats: It has to be returned to the dealer where it was purchased; must be returned without any “dents, scratches, tears, breaks, cracks, stains, etc.”; and you can’t have put more than 300 miles on it since you purchased it.
Why Is Hyundai Doing All This?
Despite being a household name, Hyudai currently has less than 4% market share in the U.S., and that figure has been on the decline as steady or lowering gas prices have engendered more interest in SUVs, crossovers, and other larger vehicles, while Hyundai has continued to focus on the passenger vehicle market.
The company can also no longer claim to have the best warranty in the U.S., after Volkswagen’s recent decision to offer 6-year/72,000-mile warranties on almost all of its model-year 2018 vehicles. That’s a full year (or 12,000 miles) more than Hyudai’s heavily touted (and still highly respectable) standard warranty.
By pushing much of the buying process out of the dealership and online, Hyundai is following the trail blazed in recent years by companies like used car mega-seller Carmax, which lets users see actual prices and get pre-qualified for financing before they ever head to the lot, and electric vehicle maker Tesla, which uses demo showrooms instead of dealers, and does most of its selling online.
But as we’ve seen with Tesla’s efforts to upend the dealership model, there are often legal and political roadblocks to a car maker selling vehicles straight to consumers. A number of states have laws requiring that carmakers used third-party licensed dealers to sell vehicles. So even if Hyundai wanted to eliminate that middle piece of the distribution chain, it would face a huge fight from its existing dealerships and the powerful automotive sellers’ lobby.