Hyundai’s Santa Fe strategy

Hyundai expects the redesigned 2019 Santa Fe to bolster sales of its growing crossover lineup. Photo credit: JACK WALSWORTH

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JUST ARRIVED: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

PARK CITY, Utah — The redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe gets several changes — starting with the name.

Hyundai is dropping Sport from the name of the smaller five-passenger version of the Santa Fe.

The brand will have one more year of selling down the three-row Santa Fe, under the name Santa Fe XL, and then will replace it with a new nameplate. 

That nameplate, expected to be called Palisade, is to debut in 2019.

“When we launched the previous generation, the idea was to maximize the efficiency of our marketing,” said Mike O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of product, corporate and digital planning, during a media introduction here. “We had Veracruz, we had Santa Fe and we never spent enough money on all of our kids. One kid got the college education. The other only got a high school education.

“We thought by having a common name with Santa Fe, we would be more efficient in marketing the Sport,” he said. “But we learned it was probably more confusing than efficient.”

Hyundai saw the confusion as shoppers configured the vehicle online.

Entering Santa Fe into the search field took shoppers to the eight-passenger, three-row version with the longer wheelbase. Seeing the price for that model — compared with the old Santa Fe they were trading in — created confusion among buyers, O’Brien said.

Growth by conquest

Hyundai expects the addition of the redesigned Santa Fe, on sale now, alongside the Kona subcompact and freshened Tucson compact, to boost the crossover share of its sales, which the company said last month stood at 46 percent.

“We’re going to bring more production capacity. We’re going to bring more products,” O’Brien said of crossovers. “Our job now is to bring more conquest, which is where all the growth is going to come from.”

Hyundai believes some Santa Fe conquest opportunity will come from owners of more expensive vehicles, thanks to the more premium look of the redesign.

The cabin uses multiple textures, more supportive seats, a headliner fabric that looks more like the material of a high-end sofa, and door panels with an embossed geometric pattern. “We really spent a lot of effort on the design side, and also on refinement in [noise, vibration and harshness], which people associate with premium vehicles,” O’Brien told Automotive News.

“It’s a good direction for our brand, and it’s a better, more profitable place to be in the marketplace. It’s a natural evolution for us as our brand becomes more mature and we develop in the U.S. market.”

The Santa Fe starts at $26,480, including shipping.

Safety

The Santa Fe also will make a suite of safety features standard. All Santa Fe models now have standard forward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, blind-spot collision warning and lane keep assist, among other features.

The standard safety features are resonating with Hyundai customers and dealers, O’Brien said, but the dealers had to be convinced.

“Initially our dealers questioned us on our standard safety strategy,” O’Brien said. “They knew it raised the price of the car.

“We just had our dealer council meeting last week, and I asked them, ‘Have we chosen the right path?’ They unanimously said yes. They say it’s selling the car. When they can show customers that you get this level of safety, whether at the base model or all the way up through to the top model, it’s been a winning strategy.”

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JUST ARRIVED: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

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