Hyundai’s Intrado concept should be one of your 'must-sees' at the Geneva show next month. Specifically, the CFRP 'spaceframe' construction should be. The manufacturer showed a scale model of it at its Technical Centre in Frankfurt today, and it’s as elegant as anything I’ve seen in a long time.
This remarkable crossover coupe is nothing if not ambitious. Insiders suggest it’s the first Hyundai concept wholly created since Peter Schreyer, architect of the Kia brand’s design transformation, took up responsibility for both Korean brands.
Boy does it show. For a brand like Hyundai, which has been groping for identity in the crowded European car scene since it started slowly moving upmarket, the Intrado is nothing short of a revelation: a vision of simplicity, functional purity, avant-garde technology and imaginative freedom. Not drop-dead gorgeous, no: but that’s not what it’s intended to be.
But I do wonder if it’s too ambitious. Nothing was admitted today, but the elephant in the room as the intricacies of the Intrado were explained was the Hyundai brand itself, which is probably already holding good products back. Hyundai will never fully escape the memory of its budget-brand past. And carbonfibre, hydrogen-powered production cars will probably always be more expensive than the average market entrant.
When BMW launched a similar avant-garde, carbonfibre, 'new premium' product recently, it needed a new sub-brand – Project i – to create the clear air necessary for success. That was the i3, of course. And it was built by BMW, which has several times more brand equity than Hyundai, you’d say.
If you ask me, Hyundai/Kia probably needs a whole new car-making subsidiary, fresh to the market, so that customers less inclined to broad-mindedness don’t dismiss the idea of a premium Korean right out of hand. The last premium brand Hyundai launched was the Genesis brand, which has yet to set the world ablaze. But a Hyundai Genesis executive barge is a far cry from this Intrado.
So, quick show of hands. Assuming Hyundai had the knowhow to bring this car to market within the next five years - and assuming it cost roughly Porsche Macan money, say, had hot-hatchback-level performance, and there were places you could refuel it with hydrogen – how many of us would be put off by that cursive 'H' badge on the grille?