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HYUNDAI Motor Co Australia (HMCA) will kick off a major marketing campaign for its all-new fourth-generation Santa Fe large SUV this weekend and it will mark a shift away from the well-trodden path of a ‘weekend adventure’ or an ‘escape with the family’.

Instead, the leading South Korean brand, which is targeting a substantial increase in sales to the tune of 1000 units a month, will launch a large-scale ‘above-the-line’ (mass media) campaign – including TV, cinema and digital – that focuses on the Santa Fe’s primary role as a ‘family bus’.

This reflects a shift in the marketplace that now sees Australian families choose SUVs over traditional MPVs for their everyday transport needs.

In an interview with GoAutoNews Premium, HMCA marketing director Oliver Mann said the marketing message would also emphasise kids being ferried around in comfort; the idea being that happy children make the parents’ journey more enjoyable.

“Whenever we do a major model launch we do a heavy amount of research, both desk research and also focus groups and product clinics,” Mr Mann said.

“So we take a good assessment of the mind and mood of the target market; where the Hyundai brand sits and the model perceptions, and how the car benchmarks against its competitors.

“That’s a static appraisal, admittedly, but it’s an interesting category and one of the things I was struck by was how, even six years ago, the category was driven, amongst the people who were buying large SUVs, by notions of ‘weekend adventure’ and ‘escape with the family’.

“Six years on, with the new Santa Fe, we found that those people are still there. But, as the category has gone very mainstream, it’s been joined by people who simply want a family bus to travel from A to B and the SUV configuration simply gives them confidence, stature, safety on the road, as well as all the space and flexibility.

“So the segment has migrated somewhat into being much more of a family bus than a weekend escape vehicle.”

Mr Mann said Hyundai’s marketing campaign would pick up on those insights. It would ask the question: “What is it, in a large SUV, that is going to enable a family to travel ‘properly’?”

“And by that I mean, it’s where the kids, fundamentally, are taken care of in comfort and space; and they have all of the facilities in terms of connectivity and shade and ventilation and refinement,” he said.

“So if the kids are in comfort, then mum and dad can sit back and actually enjoy the journey.

“That’s the key insight into the campaign: How do you create a peaceful environment, where mum and dad can enjoy actually driving the car?”

Mr Mann said he was surprised that the research found the notion of ‘weekend adventure’ had been diluted.

“There is still a hardcore (adventurer) within the SUV buyer, but, by and large, it’s mums and dads, it’s commuting, just the family routine, seven days a week – and a vehicle that needs to deliver capability to that, first and foremost.

“And the mood in the car, the environment in the car has to be a positive one.”

He also said there was now a wider split in the segment between the softer-core monocoque-chassis large SUVs (such as Santa Fe or Toyota’s Kluger) and more rugged body-on-frame models (such as the Toyota Prado and Fortuner).

“I think it’s split further apart than perhaps it was,” Mr Mann said. “SUVs were initially created as a, I won’t say counterfeit, but a simile of a true four-wheel drive. And I think SUVs still have retained much more soft-road capability than people would think they have.

“But, that said, the role of the vehicle now has fully replaced the family wagon that was (prevalent) 20 years away – a generation ago – and that’s what we found.”

Mr Mann identified the target audience for Santa Fe as “mums and dads, private buyers, aged 35-50, two- and three-kid families fundamentally”.

Asked whether he saw the Santa Fe as an occasional or full-time seven-seater, he said: “I think any seven-seat vehicle is only used in its full seven-seat capacity occasionally, that’s almost by definition.

“But I think it carries seven perfectly capably.”

Mr Mann said this new fourth-generation iteration of the Santa Fe was bigger than the previous model although it remains smaller than key rivals such as the Kluger, Mazda’s CX-9 and Nissan’s Pathfinder.

He said that was not an issue for the Santa Fe.

“It’s probably one of the things that has always set Santa Fe slightly apart, is being a little more compact, a little more manoeuvrable,” he said. “And that has advantages; for drivers in particular.”

By Terry Martin