View Comments
Hyundai s sales hit million mark
John Hughes, who sold the millionth Hyundai to Mr Rahim Jan, with partner Dewi Galvin and her children Michelle (10) & Jinai (6) Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

When launching the "Say Hi to Hyundai!" campaign in 1986, John Hughes didn't dream the brand's cars would become so popular.

"I had no idea we'd get to this," said Mr Hughes, the co-pioneer of the brand in Australia who this week completed a rare sales bookend.

His Victoria Park dealership sold Australia's one-millionth Hyundai - an ix35 to Rahim Jan - some 26 years after selling the first, a two-door Excel.

"Back in 1986, it was a case of you take something on, you hitch your wagon to it and just see what happens," Mr Hughes said.

Hyundai is now the world's fastest-growing auto brand, is fourth in national sales and second in WA. Young people, who tend to warm to Hyundai, might be surprised at the brand's nonentity status in the mid-80s.

"It was a totally unknown brand with an unpronounceable name," said Mr Hughes, who has been the world's biggest-selling Hyundai dealer seven times.

But the late Danny Fisher, who had never sold a car and had no investment capital, believed in Hyundai. He lobbied for the distribution rights and Hyundai said yes, if he could get a backer.

"Danny went knocking on every door in St Georges Terrace but was knocked back until trying the Bond Corporation," Mr Hughes said.

Realising such a venture needed an experienced car man, Alan Bond had thought of his then brother-in-law. "I'll be involved if you can get John Hughes to be in it," Mr Bond had said.

So in 1985, Bond Motor Sales was formed and the three men embarked on feverish road trips to convince dealers to take on the odd-sounding brand.

For a time, the trio felt they might as well have thrown their cash off the North Mole.

"As the first shipment of 1000 Excels was bobbing into the Heads, a major currency fluctuation meant we would be losing money on each one," Mr Hughes said.

The distribution rights were sold off in the late 80s, then in 2003 Hyundai took over.

Hyundai's super-low pricing of cars such as Excel and Getz have helped many people to shift up to a new car.

The low price tags influenced rivals while Hyundai was also a pioneer of drive-away pricing and five-year warranties.

Its image has gone from "cheap and cheerful" to one that uses words like value, quality, technology and style.

The one-millionth buyer, Mr Jan, said substance and style had influenced him: "I think it's a fantastic car," he said.

Though Hyundai sells more than 80,000 cars a year in Australia, Mr Hughes doesn't worry about a distributorship that got away.

"I've sold about 90,000 Hyundais so I've done pretty well," he said.

It turned out to be a good wagon to hitch on to.

TIMELINE

1986 Hyundai launched with $10,000 Excel
1989 Hyundai Hopman Cup
1992 First of seven world's top dealer gongs for John Hughes
1997 Drive-away pricing
2000 Excel's 250,000 sales
2004 Hyundai's 500,000th sale
2005 Hyundai A-League
2005 Five-year warranty adds unlimited kilometres
2011 Record 87,008 annual sales
2012 1 million sales