Recognising the need for more affordable and trustworthy cars on island, Hyundai dealer Prestige Motors opened its doors in April 1984.
“It was an unknown entity at the time, nobody had really heard of Hyundai,” said Managing Director Danny O’Hara. “But the prices were competitive and that’s what landed it into the global forefront.”
With the help of business partner Larry Hunter, the company settled in at their location on Eastern Avenue, and quickly got to work. With the South Korean vehicles filling the lot, the establishment embarked on a huge marketing campaign, offering customers a great car for a low price. “They tried it and they liked it,” said O’Hara.
Over the years business grew immensely; forming affiliate rental car establishment, Economy Car Rental in 1992.
For years the company flourished. “Things were going well,” said O’Hara. But in 2004 the unexpected happened; Hurricane Ivan unleashed its wrath on the Cayman Islands, devastating the country and destroying 135 cars the company had on lot.
“The seawater was about six feet high…we lost everything,” said O’Hara. “Everything.”
Admitting thoughts of giving up he explains that with such a large customer base the company decided not to give up, but instead, started over. “We have had many loyal customers over the years, and this was a time when we had to be there for them more than ever.”
Staff was also dependent on the company, so they had to forge on.
“After Ivan, we never laid off any of our staff and never cut anybody’s hours.”
He also credits the help of business associates as close as Jamaica and as far as Korea for helping them get back on their feet.
“When Desmond Panton, Hyundai dealer in Jamaica, heard what happened he immediately asked how he could help and sent about 30 vehicles. And as soon as the cars hit Cayman’s soil Prestige was basically able to sell them,” he said. Hyundai in South Korea also gave them priority on orders and parts. “When we ordered it we got it.”
Slowly but surely the company was able to recuperate and continued to get the public to further realise what a good product they were selling.
“We have a good warranty programme, and anybody that buys a Hyundai vehicle enjoys two free years of service,” said O’Hara. “We haven’t had to submit a warranty claim in four years, which is also in part to the free servicing.”
In early 2009 the company moved into its new facility at 125 Airport Road. “We kind of outgrew the Eastern Avenue location,” he said. And with the building eight feet above sea level and a roof that can accommodate more than 100 cars, the devastation that occurred during Ivan shouldn’t occur again. “You live and you learn,” said O’Hara. “So we made sure to keep certain things in mind when designing and constructing this building.”
Hopes for Prestige’s future seem bright and with the new facility increased interest and business has taken place.
“We are here to stay,” said O’Hara, welcoming all to see what Prestige and Hyundai in Cayman has to offer. “With the commitment of our customers and dedicated staff we have been able to make it. We are believers in service and our customers come first, and that won’t change”