Hyundai sees silver lining in coronavirus pandemic as consumers opt for safe personal transportation

New Delhi: Amid the gloom surrounding coronavirus pandemic, South Korean auto major Hyundai sees a silver lining for the slowdown-hit auto industry in India as consumers seek isolated mode of transportation at a time when it is also preparing to ramp up online sales of vehicles, according to a senior company official.

Hyundai Motor India (HMIL), the company’s wholly-owned arm, plans a nationwide launch of its ‘click to buy’ programme, which was introduced as a pilot project for the National Capital Region at Auto Expo last month, enabling consumers to avoid visiting crowded dealerships.

The company has also taken many internal measures, including daily temperature checking of employees and visitors at its Chennai plant and office, putting a ban on foreign travels for executives while restricting domestic travel to only extremely important business trips.

The spread of coronavirus has heavily impacted travel, tourism and other manufacturing sectors, adding to the already low customer sentiment due to uncertainty of economic downturn, according to Managing Director and CEO S S Kim.

“At the same time, there might be some positive, green area from automotive manufacturers’ perspective. Everybody wants to have a safe place, some kind of social isolation. Home might be the first place and car might be the second place for that purpose,” he told .

Kim further said, “What we heard from our colleagues is that people who didn’t want to buy cars till recently, they have changed their mind because they want to have their own isolated space even on the road.”

When asked how the company is looking to address concerns of those customers who do not wish to visit crowded showrooms to buy cars, he said Hyundai has already issued advisories to its dealers over safety hygiene, including temperature checking, sanitisation and keeping physical distance of 5 metres to ensure its consumers feel secure.

At the same time, he said Hyundai is also revving up its digital sales channel ‘click to buy’ that will take care of the entire process of buying a car — from research to test drive to booking, finance, insurance and delivery, with a designated offline sales consultant assisting consumers at every step of the way of purchase.

“I think considering the coronavirus situation this might be a great alternative solution to the customers who want to buy a car but do not want to go to any crowded area. So how to handle the situation? We are ready for the situation,” Kim said.

When asked how soon it will be ready, he said, “It is being pilot tested here in Delhi area and it will be nationally introduced in the coming few weeks period. We are preparing something, but considering the coronavirus situation we think we should hurry up implementing those plans.”

On steps taken by the company for prevention from the pandemic, Kim said HMIL has implemented “very stringent measures”, including mandatory temperature checking for everyone at entry gates of its factory and offices, sending daily body temperature report of each employee to HR head who would assess and discuss with any employee in case of fluctuations from normal and decide whether he should continue working or go back home.

Kim said no international trip is being allowed at present and domestic travel has been restricted to only cases for “some compelling reasons”.

In terms of impact on component supplies due to coronavirus, he said that at the company level it has not had such a problem.

However, some tier-I component suppliers which have supply chains spread across countries like China, Vietnam or Thailand have some impact, but that hasn’t affected the company’s production.

He said the company has made up for any constraint on supply of parts for any one particular model by ramping up others which do not have such issues.

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