Despite all the doom and surrounding the car industry at the moment, there is still one company who can afford to give itself a pat on the back – Hyundai.
Yesterday I spent the day at its European headquarters in Frankfurt looking at some new models that it hopes will ensure it can maintain its impressive sales figures when all the scrappage cash runs out.
First we saw the all-electric i10. Unlike most electric cars being mooted at the moment, its lithium-ion polymer batteries have the potential to 85 per cent recharge after 15 minutes. Suddenly the idea of taking your electric car outside the city seems like an achievable prospect.
Although we didn’t get to see the new ix-metro concept as the paint was still wet on it, it does give us a glimpse into where Hyundai wants to go in the future. If the baby SUV production car is half as radical as the concept, then it’s going to be one interesting car.
As one Hyundai executive put it, Hyundai want its future sales to be “emotion led rather than value led”. In other words, you’re going to want to buy future Hyundai models because they look good, not because they are cheap.
Hyundai’s European chief designer Thomas Buerkle also summed up the Korean firm’s future nicely. “Upmarket and refined with a touch of sportiness,” was how he put it.
It also seems to have the right idea when it comes to new technology such as stop-start and double clutch transmissions. Hyundai “wants to be best rather than first” according to on exec. He emphasised the importance of getting the technology right – in price terms, too – instead of spending millions developing something that is too pricey to find its way onto a Hyundai car.
Expect to see future Hyundais all starting with an i as well. It wants to keep its naming structure simple and its options lists to an absolute minimum.
And a few surprises could be around the corner as well. With nine all new models planned in 13 months from October 2010, who knows how far Hyundai can actually go?