Hyundai to expand dealer network with new Rockar ‘light’ local stores

UK boss admits the way we buy cars is changing, and is looking at supermarket chains for sales and store inspiration

Hyundai will introduce new Tesco Express-style local dealerships on busy shopping streets and thoroughfares to improve brand awareness and “interrupt” potential customers who are reluctant to visit a conventional showroom.

The Korean manufacturer has seen huge success with its first two Rockar stores, which offer interested buyers a haggle-free sales experience without the pressure of an established dealership. By placing the shops in key areas, Hyundai effectively interrupts you while you shop, according to UK managing director Tony Whitehorn.

Best new car deals 2017

However shops in these high-footfall out-of-town malls are expensive to maintain, so Hyundai is looking at similar, more cost-effective solutions to sell its cars.

Whitehorn told us: “If you look at what’s going on in the supermarket world, it’s odd. You’d think that today everyone would be buying all their commodities online and have them delivered. Yet Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are all building new stores.

“However, what is changing in the supermarket environment is that they are not building big stores. They’re all doing smaller, local stores. People want to have that physical presence. There still needs to be a relationship with a tangible offering.”

Car sales aren’t going fully online just yet

The Rockar stores have shown that while people are prepared to buy online, none are ready to totally detach themselves from the more predictable process of visiting a dealer to research and buy their new car. While this may change in the future, the current mind-set is to have your purchasing decisions validated by an actual human being.

Whitehorn told us almost 2,000 people have bought a car from Rockar over the past 18 months, but that almost every single one of them has been in the store. “Nobody in this moment in time wants a pure digital experience,” he said. 

“When you buy a car, you know you want the car serviced. If it goes wrong, where do I take it?”

The future for Hyundai, and indeed the wider automotive industry, then, is a matter of merging digital with physical. It’s about giving people the confidence to buy online, safe in the knowledge that if anything goes awry, they can get the issue fixed without quibble. Rockar answers these reservations by placing trained ambassadors in the store – removing the often stressful process of having to deal with potentially pushy salespeople.

“We have to go to them rather than expecting them to come to us,” Whitehorn emphasised. “No one ever went to Bluewater to buy a car.

“People used to think that buying a car was the second most expensive thing you bought, but it’s not. It’s just like buying a phone. Perception has changed – so long as you have a price that is less than £250, people are interested.”

It’s this soft-sell approach that has seen Hyundai’s average age profile plummet from around 52 in a standard dealer, to just 39 at Rockar’s Bluewater store. A massive 92 per cent are conquest sales, while 54 per cent are women. Normally that last number is closer to 10 per cent.

Smaller, less expensive stores will take everything that has worked from Rockar, effectively localising Hyundai’s dealer network by offering people more convenient places in which to research, buy and service their cars. 

“From a pure business point of view, we’re attracting new, younger people, and we’re getting women into the brand,” Whitehorn told us. “These are the people everybody wants – and localised dealers are a solution to achieving this growth.”

Guide to buying a new car

Whitehorn concluded: “I think supermarkets are brilliant retailers. We can learn a lot from them.

“Sainsbury’s and Tesco have looked at where the space is – and the space is in local stores. Now, those are the only stores they are opening,” he said.

“The industry knows digital is the route, they’re just not sure how to do it. Within 18 months, everyone will be doing this.”

Would you buy a car online without visiting a dealer? Let us know in the comments...

Recommended

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'
Opinion Genesis Hyundai Ioniq
Opinion

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'

Steve Fowler is impressed by Hyundai's electric cars, its N division and now its luxury Genesis brand
16 Jun 2021
New 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5: UK prices and specs confirmed
Ioniq 5 - front
Hyundai

New 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5: UK prices and specs confirmed

Boxy all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover is priced from £36,995 and has a maximum range of 300 miles
7 May 2021
Hyundai’s N division considering hot electric Ioniq model
Ioniq 5 N - front (watermarked)
Hyundai

Hyundai’s N division considering hot electric Ioniq model

Hyundai's performance N division could continue aggressive product rollout with a Skoda Enyaq iV vRS rival
27 Apr 2021
Retro tribute to original Hyundai Pony hatchback unveiled
Hyundai Pony - front
Hyundai

Retro tribute to original Hyundai Pony hatchback unveiled

Hyundai has pinned the Ioniq 5’s design language onto its first production model, the Pony hatchback
16 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police
police speed gun
News

Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police

Lack of road traffic police officers in the UK is making it easy for drivers to break the law, according to a survey of 15,500 British motorists
16 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
Dacia unveils new badge design
Dacia badge
Dacia

Dacia unveils new badge design

The new Dacia branding will feature on the company’s cars from 2022, with the Bigster being the first candidate
17 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'
Opinion Genesis Hyundai Ioniq
Opinion

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'

Steve Fowler is impressed by Hyundai's electric cars, its N division and now its luxury Genesis brand
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025
Mazda electric plan
Mazda

Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025

The electrification push forms part of Mazda’s goal to become a completely carbon neutral company by 2050
17 Jun 2021
New Renault Arkana 2021 review
Renault Arkana - front
Renault Arkana

New Renault Arkana 2021 review

Does an eye-catching coupe-SUV body give the new Renault Arkana the edge over other mid-size SUVs? We find out...
16 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021