In late November a client of ours came back from a meeting with one of his biggest customers. He was visibly shaken. Hardly surprising given that they’d just told him their 2009 projections were based on a forty percent drop in revenue. They’d need a lot less from him. Forty percent less.
It was about then that we were all beginning to realize the world had changed. That the futures we had all expected weren’t going to happen. That this wasn’t a recession, or a downturn. That this was life changing.
The auto industry is living through its life change in public. And the debate about whether we should or should not be bailing out the big three will continue until someone asks better questions. ‘What do customers want?’ seems like an obvious one. In an industry experiencing a forty percent decline in sales, the answer apparently is, ‘not this’.
With one exception. Hyundai.
At the beginning of this year, the company launched a program that guarantees they will take back any car bought in 2009 if the customer loses their job.
At a time when cutting costs was everyone else’s strategy, Hyundai made theirs reducing risk. At a time when their competitors were asking for government money to survive until the upturn, Hyundai believed they could create an upturn themselves. At a time when customers wanted confidence, Hyundai made a simple, human statement. ‘We believe in you.’
Hyundai’s sales compared to a year ago? Up 4.9 percent. Number of cars returned? Zero.Cost to Hyundai? Zero.
When all around you are losing their heads, you need both courage and clear thinking.
The result is almost always compelling.