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[Herald Interview] Hyundai Motor takes step

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN -- South Korea’s leading automaker Hyundai Motor aims to expand its presence in Japan with patience as the market is known for its tough-to-enter nature due to the overwhelming dominance of the country’s homegrown brands such as Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

“Since we started taking orders in May last year and began to deliver cars in August, we have sold over 700 vehicles as of August this year,” said Cho Won-sang, CEO of Hyundai Mobility Japan, in an interview with a group of reporters representing the Korea Automobile Journalists Association at the automaker's Customer Experience Center in Yokohama on Thursday.

“Regarding this, there have been various assessments with some saying that (the numbers) are not up to par. But Hyundai Motor re-entered (the Japanese market) with the mindset of 'mind share' instead of 'market share',” he said.

Hyundai announced its return to the Japanese market in February last year. The reentry came about 12 years after the company decided to pull out of the Japanese passenger car market in 2009.

Mentioning his tenure with the Korean automaker in China, Europe and the United States, Cho pointed out that the Japanese auto market is the most difficult among them.

“There are narrower roads, smaller parking spaces and tariff barriers but the mind of Japanese customers is conservative. The way they treat cars is different from other users. This is a market where people have a lot of affection for their vehicles,” he said.

“So what would it mean if we hastily come here and say that we will sell 10,000 units in three to four years and take up 5 percent of the market share? We figured that getting our brand’s name recognized by Japanese customers here is truly the value that Hyundai Motor can achieve on behalf of Korea, so we decided to take the grand approach of ‘image positioning.’”

The CEO explained that Hyundai Motor’s local strategy is to permeate the brand into the daily lives of Japanese customers. He took the example of car rentals and car-sharing services that can offer experiences of Hyundai Motor vehicles to help customers familiarize themselves with the Korean brand first.

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