latest automotive news, best new and used cars, find a new car 6f343_2018-Hyundai-Sonata-Sport-610x407 More Car, Less Dealership: Hyundai’s New Retail Program Shoots for Smoother Transactions Hyundai

Last month Volkswagen announced it had significantly upgraded its warranties and, not a week later, Hyundai gave word that it was making a big announcement on October 10th. As the brand with the most extensive factory coverage in the business (along with Kia and Mitsubishi), we expected them to respond assertively.

The gauntlet had been thrown down and it was time for Hyundai to remind VW who the world’s value leader was. What would the response be? One million miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage? Free hats? We were ready for anything and everything.

The announcement came and Hyundai is now promoting its new retail program, called Shopper Assurance, which allows you to schedule a test drive via the internet, browse dealer inventories online, and offers a three-day money-back guarantee. Needless to say, it’s slightly disappointing, but it isn’t all bad news. 

Hyundai didn’t do anything wrong, per se. This simply felt like a missed opportunity to extend warranties and a middle finger to its rivals. Even creeping coverage up by 10,000 miles would have been an utterly ruthless move, reaffirming it as the one true king of Warranty Mountain — which sounds like an incredibly un-fun paperwork-themed ride at Disney World.

However, that wasn’t the news we were given, so we’re left to discuss Shopper Assurance.

Hyundai claims the program is a direct response to overwhelming disdain for the car buying process and part of its corporate promise to provide customers with a better overall experience. That’s a noble cause if there ever was one.

Essentially an online shopping service, Hyundai says Shopper Assurance thoroughly streamlines and modernizes the entire car buying experience. The event, held at the company’s North American headquarters, was big on its four tenets of transparent pricing, scheduled test drives, streamlined purchasing, and three-day money-back guarantee. Combined, the entire program is designed to keep time spent at the dealership to an absolute minimum without making the process more daunting for the customer.

“We expect this to be a differentiator, as our research showed that 84 percent of people would visit a dealership that offered all four features over one that did not,” said Dean Evans, Hyundai America’s chief marketing officer. “It is the future of car buying, and our commitment to creating a flexible, efficient and better way to purchase a car in partnership with our dealer body.â€�

Admirable and smart, especially since every industry analyst is claiming any automaker that doesn’t provide digital dealerships with wither and die in the years to come. But we’re not thrilled about everything Shopper Assurance provides. For one, you can already schedule test drives at any dealership with a physical store. But the thing that really stands out is the “transparent pricing” — which translates into “fixed MSRP.”

The automaker makes clear that all dealer websites will list fair-market pricing: the MSRP minus incentives and any dealer offered discounts. But that still means little to no haggling. While not necessarily a bad thing, we’re not sure this makes the best sense for Hyundai — an automaker whose chief claim to fame is providing exceptional value for money. But Hyundai thinks the future is in making things easier, a claim echoed by industry analysts.

“We’ve listened to our customers, and they want convenience and simplicity when it comes to buying a car. Shopper Assurance is going to give our dealers the tools we need to exceed the expectations of today’s shopper,â€� said Andrew DiFeo, chairman of Hyundai’s national dealer council. “With a strong lineup of new cars and CUVs, we expect that Shopper Assurance will give us a competitive advantage and help turn prospects into buyers. We are creating a modern purchasing process where transparency and convenience are paramount.â€�

Industry experts claim the next big thing in car buying is easy-to-use digital dealerships. Plenty suggest that younger generations will flat-out refuse extended face-to-face interactions. A little antisocial but, if it turns out to be true, Hyundai is wise for getting a jump on this.

Still, we can’t help but feel like Shopper Assurance doesn’t offer much in the way of genuine novelty. While the three-day guarantee (provided you kept it under 300 miles) is a nice touch, most reputable dealerships already have their own websites where you can browse inventories and get the ball rolling on a sale. But there is where Hyundai claims the difference will be made.

By providing a uniform experience between all of its dealers, it believes it can achieve improved customer satisfaction. Hyundai says Shopper Assurance should make it so buyers can complete most of the paperwork online prior to visiting the dealership — including applying for financing, credit approvals, trade-in values, etc.

The program will launch over the next several weeks in four trial markets: Miami, Orlando, Houston and Dallas. It will then launch nationally in the beginning of 2018.

[Image: Hyundai]

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