Lessons learned about being a fast-follower from driving around a new rental car

I don’t normally write reviews of automobiles.

I felt compelled to write this one because of its relationship to addressing market demands. The car I drove this week was obviously targeted at a hyper-niche of the global automotive market: The Millennials. The design concepts are what I think are a good example learning how to penetrate a market using good enough design that is hyper-targeted.

This week I find myself driving a brand new Hyundai Veloster, 2+1 door Kammback. It is a zippy little car even with the low-end engine that you get from a rental car dealer. The thing that strikes me is that the design seems to be a direct rip-off and mashup of a Renault Mégane RS or Renault Mégane III, and a Nissan 370Z. The ride feels controlled, tight, but unrefined. In Boston, I felt every single groove, rut, crack, bump and pothole on every single road… in my back. It was rather jarring. I loved the quite refined instrument cluster and controls, especially the sport mode 6-speed twin-clutch transmission and steering-wheel mounted, paddle shifters. I didn’t like the environment and audio controls. The door-mount controls for windows and mirrors were… silly with a handle going over the top of them so my big, drummer hands couldn’t find the controls without stopping and looking. The center entertainment and information screen was huge, and bright… so bright I wanted to scream at night when I couldn’t figure out how to get the brightness controls to work (they didn’t).

Driving it while wearing sunglasses and my typical Euro-preppy clothes made me wonder if people might think I’m a guy going through a mid-life crises.

What can we learn about hyper-local marketing from Hyundai’s example?

  1. The overwhelming success of The Fast and the Furious franchise has fueled a generation of kids who want something sexy and sporty, but something that is at least green-washed and affordable. By leveraging existing media penetration, Hyundai is able to figure out a really specific niche market to target… translation… a real Fast-Follower doesn’t just pay attention to successful trends, but also delivers quickly on the heels of the Innovators and Early-Adopters. Hyundai know who the Mavens and Salesmen for the Innovators and Early-Adopters of this class of vehicle, and has figured out how to iterate quickly on a niche-market design that is targeting the Connectors and Salesmen for the Early Majority which can’t afford the cars featured in The Fast and the Furious such as the Mitsubishi Lancer or Nissan NSX.
  2. Copyrights don’t handle “Stealing like an Artist” well, so many companies can get away with similar but not the same designs. In this case, Hyundai is appealing to their market niche’s tastes for more expensive and refined designs.

Hyundai definately knows how to ripoff the best parts of other designs, but I really wish they would learn how to build a car that doesn’t have hokey controls. Companies learning to mimic Hyundai’s approach might be able to reduce their innovation costs by being a fast-follower, but to do so they will have to learn to be hyper-local and/or hyper-targeted at a specific niche.

Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai Veloster

Nissan Fairlady Z34

Nissan Fairlady Z34

Renault Mégane III RS

Renault Mégane III RS