SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. Hyundai Motor Co. has gotten a lot of traction out of offering low-priced, well-appointed cars, appealing to price conscious people who want premium appointments, but don't want to pay for them.
This is particularly true with its Genesis and Equus models, which offer significant discounts to similarly equipped competitors in the mid and full-sized luxury segments. But today Hyundai U.S. Chief John Krafcik shared a curious bit of info that seems almost implausible. The brand also seems to appeal to the very wealthy.
American Express Centurion Card holders those people who are rich enough that they are offered with a nearly unlimited line of credit and a host of other niceties buy Hyundais at a disproportionately high rate compared with other cars. Indeed, 6% of Black Card holders say they have a Hyundai in the garage. That tied with Bentley and Audi. Others on the list: BMW is tops with 22%; then Mercedes with 21%; Porsche with 15%; Lexus, 11%; Ferrari, 8%; and Acura, 7%. That puts a lot of interesting brands below it.
I know you all can't believe this, Krafcik said in a presentation today at the company U.S. engineering and research center near Ann Arbor.
The average Centurion has $16.3 million in assets and an annual household income of $1.3 million. Krafcik bemusedly mentioned that he has never been offered a Centurion Card invitation.
Benefits of the card are said to include automatic airline upgrades, concierge and travel agent service, favored positioning for sporting events and other niceties that are probably only useful to people who tons of disposable cash. Of course, American Express doesnâ€™t list the benefits on its Web page â€“ you have to be a holder to get the keys to the kingdom.
This info was rolled out while Hyundai was showing the specs for its 2012 Hyundai Genesis. New features include an R-spec version with a 5-liter direct-injection V8 that can produce up to 429 HP and a new 8-speed transmission. Hyundai expects 0-60 times around 5.1 seconds. The car is on sale now, if you can find it. Hyundai's U.S. inventory of cars is around 40,000 vehicles, spread over 800 dealerships, working out to two-thirds of a month supply.
Krafcik also hinted that the Genesis will soon be getting all-wheel-drive, but not in the 2012 model year. The lack of the AWD feature may have inhibited sales of the rear-wheel-drive car in the Northeast and Midwest, where the take rate on the feature is about 70% among competitors, he said.
Still, the Genesis is on track to smash the 30,000 sales barrier in the U.S. this year. He also said that a major refresh is coming soon on the Genesis Coupe, the sports car version of the rear-wheel-drive platform. That may be all for now for Hyundai on the luxury front, though the company still is considering a smaller sedan aimed at the BMW 3-series and a premium crossover.
An interesting development from the 2012 Genesis is that the base model for 2012 is $1,200 more expensive. The Lexus brand started its life in a similar way, offering a discount from Cadillac and Lincoln with as-good or much better performance before prices began creeping up.