NEW HUDSON, MI – Hyundai Motor America’s initially controversial plan to construct a showroom-within-a-showroom for its luxury-leaning Equus and Genesis sedans is progressing smoothly, officials say.

Some 200 of the Korean auto maker’s 400 U.S. Hyundai stores opting for the scheme completed installations as of Feb. 23. Hyundai has about 800 dealers in the U.S.

Ward’s first revealed the showroom-within-a-showroom plan in December 2009. At the time, several Hyundai dealers were dismayed at the potential high cost of segmenting their showrooms.

But in a visit to two Detroit-area Hyundai dealers with dedicated display areas for the Equus and Genesis sedan, it is evident relatively minimal cash is required to provide the necessary branding elements, which include dark bamboo flooring, half walls and kiosks.

“It’s a lot less than the cost of an Equus,” says Chris Schroeder, sales manager at Liberty Hyundai located in this Detroit suburb.

The ’11 Equus bases at $58,000 for the Signature trim level and $64,500 for an Ultimate grade.

Because Liberty Hyundai is a relatively new store, opened just a year-and-a-half ago, it was designed with showroom-within-a-showroom in mind.

“Our Equus presentation area is an area already in the original (floor) plan,” Schroeder says of his store’s unique glass rotunda with a lift.

Always on the sales floor is the Equus – barring times when it is needed for test drives, while the car occupying the lift, currently a Genesis Coupe, is switched periodically.

Liberty Hyundai is situated in a high-visibility spot, just off I-96, a busy east-west freeway running from Detroit through its western suburbs to Lansing and beyond.

“The rotunda is lighted 24/7 so when you drive by you can see the cars, particularly the top one,” Schroeder says. “It draws a lot of attention.”

A more typical representation of the showroom-within-a-showroom design can be seen at Suburban Hyundai in Troy, MI, another Detroit suburb.

At Suburban Hyundai, the Equus is found at the back of the showroom in a square area delineated by the unique dark bamboo floor and the half walls that form a corner behind the car.

“I think it was a very interesting idea, because the Genesis didn’t get the attention that it needed to get as a premium car,” Schroeder says of the benefits of the showroom-within-a-showroom concept, modeled after the way Scions are displayed at Toyota dealers and premium electronics are presented at Best Buy stores.

Costs to convert to the showroom-within-a-showroom design may be more for some dealers, but Hyundai considers it a far less pricey proposition than building stand-alone stores and/or launching a dedicated luxury brand.

Hyundai spokesman Dan Bedore notes one Detroit-area dealer who plans to install the scheme first must move out a competing make from his Hyundai showroom. Only dealers with stand-alone Hyundai showrooms can sell the Equus.

Not only is the Equus’ place on the sales floor unique, so is the way the car is being demonstrated to buyers.

With “Your Time, Your Place” Hyundai salespeople take the Equus to a potential client, meeting them at their home or workplace.

“The customers really like it a lot,” Schroeder says of the program. “Some of them really take advantage of it. Some of them are a little timid taking advantage of it. But once we get there with the car they love it.”

A typical demo includes Schroeder running through the car’s features, then taking the customer for a ride prior to putting him behind the wheel.

Also part of the Equus demonstration is the car’s Apple iPad owners’ manual.

“(Customers) think it’s really neat,” Schroeder says. “There’s a lot of information on there. We show them how they can make appointments through it. You can demonstrate how the adaptive lighting system works. There’s a lot of different features on it. You can show them all the different color combinations.”

So far, Liberty Hyundai has sold two Equus sedans, both 5-seat Signature models vs. the 4-seat, executive-oriented Ultimate grade. Both buyers owned a number of other luxury cars.

Having the Equus in the Hyundai showroom has boosted Liberty’s sales of the Genesis, Schroeder says.

“It’s been about one a month, and now it’s going to two-to-three a month. And we’re getting a lot more traffic on it,” he says, noting the Genesis possesses many of the same features of the Equus, including a 4.6L V-8 engine, for less money.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com