Volvo, Hyundai Seek New Images In Shop Reviews

Volvo U.S. and Hyundai Motor America have put their accounts into review, the former as the company prepares to roll out a raft of new vehicles over the coming two years.

The latter's review comes a week after new marketing staff--including CMO Joel Ewanick--came on board. Last Friday, the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based company announced it would launch a review of its account with five-year incumbent Dallas-based Richards Group.

But at Volvo, Irvine, Calif., which in December launched a review of its account with 16-year incumbent Euro RSCG, N.Y., the action reflects growth plans and new strategy.

At least that's what the company says.

Ironically, Ewanick had been director of brand planning at Hyundai's erstwhile agency Richards (which reportedly declined to participate in the review) before he took the job at Hyundai early in February. That has some observers questioning the source--and sense--of the review decision.

"It's not a problem with [Richards Group] but with the direction the agency is being given," said Dan Gorrell, president of The Gorrell Group, an automotive consultancy. "With Hyundai hiring someone from the agency, it seems [Steve Wilhite, COO of Hyundai Motor America] would want to give it more time. It seems Hyundai U.S. would want to give [Ewanick] time to size up the situation; after all, he has first-hand knowledge of the agency's capabilities."

Art Spinella, president of CNW Market Research, Bandon, Ore., said the direction is coming from Korea, which has traditionally been a heavy-handed manager of U.S. marketing.

"Hyundai is dramatically looking for its niche--to see if it can really be a Toyota. In their minds, they aren't doing it effectively, they aren't conveying that competitive advantage versus Toyota," he said. "They don't seem to be doing enough of what the Korean brass really think they should be doing."

Meanwhile, Volvo executive vice president/marketing Hans Krondahl will depart the company in April to run Meca, an automotive supplier in Sweden. "I got a great offer to run my own company," he said.

He said that the agency review is being driven by its biggest new-product salvo, including the S80 sedan, and a smaller car, called C30, and a smaller SUV called XC60, which was shown this year as a concept in the Detroit auto show.

"We are going to a new phase for Volvo, and we need to make sure we have looked into all areas of the business and how to best see the growth for Volvo in the U.S. and globally."

He said the four finalists are Arnold, Boston; Fallon, Minneapolis; and boutique firms Nitro, London and New York, and Amsterdam-based 180.

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