South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. is making a bold branding move that goes well beyond its traditional “more value-for-your-money” line-up of automobiles. The company has started pumping some serious juice into a growth model plan to develop high end sports cars.
With the help of the Germans.
Today at the annual Frankfurt Motor Show, the world’s fifth-largest automaker rolled out a concept car for its new “N” sub brand that’s sure to turn heads once it hits the streets.
The Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo is an 872-horsepower, four wheel drive, hydrogen fuel cell-driven monster –one that you would never expect to have Hyundai’s “H” logo attached to the hood. And therein lies the problem.
While the Gran Turismo is only a concept car, high end sports cars are in the company’s crosshairs. But first things first; before addressing branding issues, the company needs to actually manufacture well-built high-end cars en masse.
Producing such grand designs takes time, and that’s where Hyundai is banking on German experience and expertise to drastically reduce the development cycle.
The high-performance production planners are being overseen by Albert Biermann, a 30-year veteran formerly with Germany’s BMW AG. Biermann joined the Hyundai team in December of last year after serving as the chief engineer for BMW’s successful “M” sports car brand.
He’s got his work cut out for him.
“Hyundai doesn’t stand for high-performance car…not yet,” said Biermann. “This will change. There’s a clear commitment and a plan to develop and sell a high-performance car.”
Biermann is also joined by fellow German and famed design guru Peter Schreyer who will head up the project.
Eye to the future
The introduction of a sports cars is part of a larger strategy by the Hyundai, the world’s fifth-largest carmaker, as it looks to fend off another profit drop following a string of six straight quarters of decline.
Hyundai officials were tight lipped on pricing or strategy details for the N sports car models, but Biermann said the cars could reasonably be on the road within two years. Implying that some models might be available to mid-range sports car buyers as well.
“We will perform on the competitive level, but we will try to make these cars available for the wider customer base.”
Analyst expect it will be a long process for Hyundai to instill confidence in a sub brand of automobiles geared towards performance. The Germans and other European brands have done so over several decades.
But according to Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University, in an interview with Reuters, the move is a logical strategy for Hyundai.
“Hyundai will lag behind the global auto industry if it does not develop high-performance and eco-friendly technology.”
Car and Driver magazine was a little less than optimistic that anything remotely like the Gran Turismo will ever see the roadway. Alexander Stoklosa writing on their blog:
“This is a car that will exist digitally and nowhere else, unless Hyundai has some top-secret plans to enter Le Mans anytime soon.”