When you launch a brand ‘against the wind,’ meaning you know you will struggle to get people to buy in, you better damn well make sure the initial experiences are GREAT. #HyundaiEquusFAIL
I am looking for a car. I am in LOVE with the BMW 750Li but not with the price, cost of maintenance and associated pains. I discovered a company doing to that segment what Lexus did to, um, that segment years ago. Hyundai released (in 2011) the Equus. A car that almost every single review I have read applauds as an excellent vehicle that can compete with cars carrying a price tag 30-40 THOUSAND dollars more. I did what any child of the internet would do; I watched every YouTube video I could and read every review (and subsequent snarky comment) from every blog in the blogosphere.
Everything told me to give this car a chance. So, without any other internet searches I headed to my local Equus CERTIFIED dealer.
Here’s the thing; Hyundai chose a different path from Toyota, Nissan, Honda and pretty much every other, “I used to be a cheap car manufacturer but now I want better margins so I am spinning off a luxury nameplate,” company. Rather than spawning off a Lexus, Infinity or Accord brand that everyone knows is connected but has a different name and brings with it the increased cost of marketing, Hyundai has chosen to simply do a soft rebrand. They are clear in their vehicle naming, deemphasize the parent brand (only one Hyundai element remains visible) and have created (allegedly) a certification process for dealers.
One of the coolest things about the Equus is that you never have to go to the dealership for service. Aside from an amazing warranty, for the first 60,000 miles, a service representative will come to you, drop you off a loaner Equus (or Genesis) and then return the car once the completely free service is completed. This white glove service really is a nice benefit to a car that already undercuts the market significantly and certainly smacks of the pretension that I am looking for in a ride. When you look at the vehicle, the reviews and the build-up, how could this go wrong?
My friend and I arrive at the local Equus certified dealer and were immediately disappointed with its appearance. The cars were haphazardly arranged and this flagship sedan was out front with little to no fanfare. I had called previously as the web copy specified that the test drive, “starts at your house,” but when I asked for the person I spoke to he was busy. No big deal, that happens. I was handed to the next person who greeted me in a wrinkled orange polo.
Now don’t get me wrong, I normally do not care what people wear. That being said, even when I worked at Microsoft and my regular attire was shorts and t-shirts, when I met with executives or interviewed with another group, I dressed up. You wear what is appropriate for the engagement. I was there test driving their best, most expensive vehicle. This is a vehicle that competes with vehicles ranging into the 6 figure price point. They, a bargain brand, are trying to make me believe that they, as a company, can provide that level of service.
Next up, the car doesn’t start.
Hey, batteries die. But for one of four of these cars on the lot to be in a state that will not start is so stupid it makes my temple hurt. They jumped the car and off we went. I noticed we had a whopping 37 miles of fuel in the tank (another stupid truth, but moved past it.) As we drove away with wrinkled man in the back seat, my friend Brian and I asked a number of questions about the car. Very few were met with solid, accurate answers.
What the hell is going on?!
What ever happened to product knowledge? This is your best vehicle! You couldn’t take the time to understand it as well as I had by reading the comments of the 13 year old experts online?
Anyway, we returned and I inquired as to a long-term test drive. This is something that happens quite often when a qualified buyer will take a vehicle home for an evening or a weekend to see if he or she really likes the vehicle and that it fits their lifestyle (in my case, my wife and two sons). This confused wrinkled shirt man and he stammered that they didn’t have anything ‘formal’ like that but they might be able to do something.
Oh yea, and the price on the sticker did not match the internet price. I asked about it and his response was that the prices change so often that he wasn’t sure but that he was, “pretty sure they would honor the online price.”
You mean the one on your VERY OWN WEBSITE?!
Okay, enough ranting and extra punctuation (which I normally hate). The moral to this story is that this is a case of a very good product. In fact, for you car types, this car was far nicer than the Lexus LS 460 that I drove. Sadly, this product, in this case, is ruined by a crap team. That team has no concept of:
Do you know your products well? Do you represent them well and professionally? Do you follow up and do what you say you will? I hope so and I hope for Hyundai’s sake that this particular dealer was an exception. Because they could make a damn Xerox copy of the 750Li and with that team to get it to the market, they would sell none of them.
I hope you are not doing the same with your outstanding products and services.
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