Hyundai UK boss Tony Whitehorn has dashed rumours of a new sports car for the brand, instead saying the Korean firm will focus on hotter, performance versions of its existing products.
Speaking to Autocar at the company’s annual business briefing in London, Whitehorn said: “Putting a new sports car into that segment isn’t easy. It’s a big risk. I think that going into the sports car segment is a risk for the UK.”
Previously, Hyundai Europe boss Allan Rushforth had said the company was looking at a new, premium sports car to help increase the emotional appeal of the brand, with inspiration coming from 2014’s PassoCorto concept.
Instead, Whitehorn said Hyundai will look to its WRC success to inform future developments: “What WRC does is show there’s a desire to be more emotional. We have previously been a rational purchase; now we want to be an emotional one. I don’t think that necessarily means you need to have a sports car.”
The recently revealed i30 Turbo could become the first model from the range of hotter cars, which could come under the N Performance sub-brand. Whitehorn says there’s an “opportunity” to produce performance versions of the new Hyundai i20 and i40. “You’ve got to have some link between the WRC and your mass-market vehicles,” he said.
Former BMW M engineering boss Allan Biermann has recently joined Hyundai and is understood to be helping to develop the new range.
The addition of new models will help Hyundai to reach its target of selling 5.05 million cars globally in 2015, with 88,000 of those coming from the UK. By contrast, the company sold a total of 4.96 million cars worldwide in 2014, and 82,159 units in the UK.
Part of the sales push will come from an overhaul of Hyundai’s dealer network. As well as adding five new dealers in 2015, pushing the total to 165 in the UK, the brand will look to increase the visibility of its network with new signage and a refreshed corporate image.
The recently launched Rockar virtual showroom is also being watched with great interest, Whitehorn said. The ‘digital dealership’ was launched in November and has since seen 35,250 visits from potential customers.
Although fewer than 100 cars have been sold through the Rockar showroom since its launch, Hyundai says it is a good asset to grow its brand image.
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