Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – A complimentary Apple iPad is just one of the innovative customer-service ideas Hyundai Motor America is introducing with its Equus flagship sedan on sale this fall.

The brand hopes the functionality of the iPad, which fills in for a standard owner’s manual and will allow an Equus buyer to schedule service, will trickle down to other models in its lineup.

“That same thing can cascade down across all of our products,” HMA President and CEO John Krafcik tells media here following the car’s New York auto show debut.

“We’ve already begun development with various application developers for services that are going to tie in nicely with the Equus ownership experience,” he says. “Including this simple one: You touch the screen for service, it pulls up a schedule (and) you decide when you’d like your car picked up and the location.”

Similar applications are under development for smartphones, which Krafcik expects will be available for download at the Apple iTunes store.

The Equus’ relatively low expected volume, 1,000-3,000 units per year in the U.S., makes it possible for Hyundai dealers to pick up cars from owners for servicing.

The small buyer base is “going to allow us to do things for the Equus customer that Lexus can’t do for their customer, because they have too many,” Krafcik says. “This is a whole new solution. We’ll come to you. We understand you don’t want to go to any dealer.”

Ward’s first reported last December Hyundai’s plan to retail its rear-wheel-drive cars, both the Equus and already on-sale Genesis, at select dealers in a showroom-within-a-showroom.

Hyundai hopes to get 300 dealers signed up to retail the car. Dealers have to have exclusive Hyundai showrooms, which today means about one-third of Hyundai’s 790 U.S. retailers are eligible.

Dealers also must have demonstrated a “Genesis sales efficiency” and be willing to make a “moderate” investment to section off their showrooms for the two models, Krafcik says.

The showroom-within-a-showroom plan doesn’t preclude Hyundai introducing a luxury brand at some point, the executive says. Hyundai two years ago estimated it would cost $2.5 billion to do so.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com