The 1980s band The Icicle Works once named an album ‘If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song’ and, while it is unlikely that Hyundai’s Korean chiefs are passionate about their jangly alternative rock, that motto could be used to sum up the stunning rise the firm has enjoyed.
In recent years, Hyundai has learned how to play its rivals’ anthems note for note. By establishing a substantial presence in Europe to complement its home-grown Korean operations, Hyundai has raised the standard of the models it sells in the West and overtaken some long-established names in the sales charts.
At the start of last week I visited Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech in Nosovice, in the east of the Czech Republic. During this year, 300,000 examples of six models – i20, three i30 body styles, ix20 and ix35 – will be built there.
It has only been open since 2008, but the factory’s 3500 workers have already turned out more than one million cars, reaching that milestone on 16 May. HMMC’s general manager, Petr Vanek, calculates that vehicle number two million should roll off the line some time in the summer of 2016.
Two things struck me as we toured the vast factory. The first was the nearly arranged rows of car body parts. Hyundai’s super-efficient ‘just in time’ production process means there aren’t huge warehouses full of stock lying dormant, but to the uninitiated (me) it still seemed that there was an enormous surplus of parts.