The South Korean company that excels in the passenger car market has regrouped for a renewed attack on the Australian truck buyer – Dave Whyte reports.
It never ceases to amaze me how many manufacturers want a piece of the Australian truck market. Given the limited number of trucks sold across many different weight segments, the number of players in the field is remarkable. Just as remarkable is the number of new entries into the market. Most of these now come from Asia or India, with Great Wall, JAC, JMC and Mahindra coming to mind. A recent announcement from Hyundai Commercial Vehicles Australia (HCVA) heralded the re-arrival of Hyundai in the light truck race, and the promise of a heavy-duty model on our shores next year.
Australians are no strangers to the Hyundai brand, with the Korean manufacturer having forged an enviable reputation, and gained massive market share, in the passenger car market over recent years. Those of you with a good memory will also remember Hyundai trucks being available here for a short period many moons ago, before Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) dropped the light truck range, and focused its efforts on selling the car and light van products that have proven so popular.
While HMCA was selling those light trucks in Australia, the Peninsula Motor Group, under the guidance of Dilip Kumar, was the best performing dealership in Australia for Hyundai trucks. It seems fitting then, that the Peninsular Motor Group should take on the import and distribution of the current model Hyundai trucks through a newly formed subsidiary, Hyundai Commercial Vehicles Australia (HCVA). HCVA have an agreement with Hyundai in South Korea, and will act as an agent, importing, selling and supporting Hyundai’s light and heavy-duty truck products.
The problem with many of the newer brands to the local market comes in the form of product support, as many price-savvy buyers have learnt, with servicing and spare parts seemingly being overlooked by importers. The HCVA deal seems to be a little different though, with dealerships around the country coming on board before the product hits our shores, and the promise of national support for the new products entering the country.
At the recent announcement of the new agreement, Dilip Kumar, managing director of HCVA, described the event as, “A historic day for HCVA and the Peninsula Motor Group”. He continued, saying, “Opportunities to secure a major and well respected brand such as Hyundai are very rare, and highly sought after. The Peninsula Motor Group has been a Hyundai dealer since 2008, and, as such, we are aware of the esteem and popularity of the brand with Australian buyers. So when the commercial vehicle distributorship became available, we immediately registered our keen interest in securing it”.
Having secured the rights to distribute Hyundai commercial vehicles in Australia, the emphasis then turned to choosing which products would be brought into the country, and offered to Australian buyers.
“While we had sampled the product range on several occasions in Korea as part of our negotiations, it was time to put each vehicle under the microscope, and select the best possible specifications to suit Australian buyers,” Mr. Kumar said.
“Once we had a product line-up secured, we spent many months visiting existing and new dealers, to detail our vision and long-term commitment. That commitment included the building of a new headquarters for HCVA, which includes training facilities, offices for administration, sales and marketing personnel, and a distribution centre.
“As you can imagine, this is not an inexpensive exercise,” Mr. Kumar said. “We have committed to this venture for the long term”.
HCVA general manager, Anthony Hulme, was on hand to detail the initial product offering from HCVA, which includes three basic models available with varying wheelbases.
At the lighter end of the scale, the EX4, with a GVM of 4.5 tonnes, is available in either short, medium or long wheelbase. The next step up is the EX6, with a 6.5 tonnes GVM, available in either short or medium wheelbase configuration, while the 7.5-tonne GVM EX8 will be available in short, medium, long and extra-long-wheelbase variants. There are two cab variants available, with the standard cab or Super Cab, which offers around 200 mm of extra space behind the seats. The Super Cab is available on any model (EX4, EX6 or EX8) with the exception of short-wheelbase variants.
All models are powered by the same Euro 5 compliant 3.9-litre turbocharged engine, which delivers 170 hp and 610 Nm of torque. While the EX4 and EX6 get a five-speed manual transmission, the bigger EX8 is fitted with a six-speed manual to better handle the weight.
It’s worth mentioning that all models will be fitted with four-wheel disc brakes, including Vehicle Dynamic Control. Hill start aid and lane departure warning are also on the list, along with steering-wheel-mounted cruise control operation, a heated seat for the driver and four power outlets to operate all the techno gadgets that drivers use today.
Various factory fitted bodies will also be available on the EX range, including vans, refrigerated bodies (down to -25 degrees), tray bodies (steel or aluminium) and a three-way tipper that will be available early 2017. Having seen the refrigerated and van bodies on display, it would seem the quality of construction and finish is very good. In a smart move by HCVA, the factory fitted bodies will also be covered by the vehicle warranty, which covers the first three years or 200,000 of the vehicles life and includes roadside assistance for that period.
To back up that warranty, HCVA has already established a network of 21 dealers across the country, with plans to add another 9 in 2017. Most of these are truck dealerships, with technicians to be trained on Hyundai trucks at the HCVA training facility in Sydney. Orders for workshop parts, according to HCVA, will be despatched to anywhere in the country overnight using TNT express. With all of this being in place before the first shipment of trucks arrives in February, it would seem the management team at HCVA has done its homework on supporting the product.
While we haven’t yet driven the new Hyundai EX range, it would seem that HCVA and Peninsular Motor Group have made a big investment into the future of Hyundai trucks in Australia, and are keen to show Australian customers just what the Korean brand has to offer. Having launched the light truck range, they are confident of bringing the heavy-duty Xcient prime mover into dealerships sometime next year, with a range of large vans and buses to follow.
Having seen the success of these buses and vans overseas, and the market domination of the Xcient in Korea, the re-emergence of Hyundai trucks into the Australian market could well ruffle a few feathers. With very competitive pricing ($59,990 for the EX4 SWB with refrigerated body), it remains to be seen whether HCVA can emulate the success of the Hyundai passenger car business, or whether the experience with other low-cost manufacturers has left a bad taste in the mouths of Australian light truck buyers.