Hyundai's high esteem of Malta
Interviewed by The Times Business during a short visit to Malta, Mr Rushforth said he was "very satisfied" with Hyundai's performance in Malta and with the high level of customer service and loyalty of its customers.
Since Hyundai cars were first imported in Malta in 1980, only about 2 per cent of the cars sold have been scrapped. This, he said, was positive from the reliability aspect of Hyundai cars as well as a good indicator of the loyalty of its customers. Mr Rushforth, who is responsible for European sales, after sales and marketing activities, said that although the Maltese market is small, Hyundai has been one of the top three best-sellers over the past years.
"Only three years ago, Hyundai was number one in Malta with 10 per cent of the market share. Since 2005 the market forces in Malta have changed the dynamics of the market and this, coupled with the removal of two key models of the Hyundai line-up, mean that 2008 will be an exciting year for the Hyundai brand also in Malta," he said.
Moreover, he added, there were some models that could no longer be sold in Malta due to the fact that they were not compliant with European Union regulations.
Mr Rushforth said Hyundai entered the Maltese market on a price value message and that enabled it to grow to reach the 10 per cent market share. Now, the company was looking at returning the business to its previous levels.
"What we have here in Malta is a well-established business and close to 12,000 vehicles on the Maltese roads. Our challenge has got to be that of increasing our annual sales to the previous high levels 2005. We have a great business and need to utilise this to grow further," he said.
Mr Rushforth said the larger cars were selling less well and the smaller cars were selling better, not only in Malta but practically all over Europe.
The sales of the new i10 and the i30 models are growing and sales of larger cars, including SUVs, are on the decline. "We are launching new cars that are attractive and energy-efficient and still offer great value. We are designing and engineering cars in Germany and are about to open a new factory in the Czech Republic in the fourth quarter of this year," he said.
Asked about Hyundai's plans for Malta in the near future, Mr Rushforth said the automobile company saw great opportunities in Malta.
"I am very satisfied with the structure of the business. Our level of customer service and loyalty in Malta is very high. We want to offer more CO2-efficient and tax-efficient vehicles in Malta and we appeal to our customers by offering them good vehicles at an attractive price. We need to invest more in our brand image in Malta. We intend to invest more in a marketing campaign in Malta. The car business is not a complex business that starts and finishes with the customer."
"I am confident that we can be more successful in the Maltese market. As the Maltese market becomes more sophisticated and average earnings increase, then people who today are driving used Japanese vehicles will see the value of Hyundai products and make the transition," he continued.
Mr Rushforth said the global economic factors are making life very interesting for Europe, Malta and Hyundai. "The increasing price of fuel and commodities, the economy in the US, the EU regulations on CO2 emissions and the changes in taxation across Europe to achieve the targets by 2012 make it a very interesting period," he added.