BUSINESS

[Herald Interview] Hyundai cautious on separating N brand

By Korea Herald

Top automaker aims premium market in Europe with high performance vehicles

  • Published : Jul 19, 2017 - 16:07
  • Updated : Jul 19, 2017 - 18:09
HWASEONG, Gyeonggi Province -- Having Genesis as an independent brand from Hyundai Motor was intended to maximize its image.

But when it comes to the N project, the carmaker’s drive to produce high performance vehicles on a commercial level, Hyundai seems to be more restrained.

“As for whether Hyundai will launch a separate division or brand for high performance vehicles like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG remains to be seen,” said Im Se-bin, director of the High Performance Vehicle Development Group at Hyundai Motor, told The Korea Herald.

Im Se-bin (right), director of the High Performance Vehicle Development Group at Hyundai Motor, poses with fellow researchers working on Hyundai’s N project to develop high performance cars. (Hyundai Motor Group)

With the N project Hyundai is seeking to rival BMW’s high performance M division and Audi’s RS brand.

It plans to unveil the i30N, a likely rival to the Volkswagen Golf FTI and Ford Focus ST, in Europe in October.

The powerful hatchback is the first commercial vehicle produced under the N project. It will be released in Europe only, as Hyundai is preparing another high performance car for the Veloster platform, most likely called the Veloster N, in early next year.

Based on extensive tests, Im was confident Hyundai Motor’s performance cars are as durable as those made by premium German automakers.

During the test stage, Hyundai Motor evaluated its cars alongside other performance cars from three to four premium carmakers, such as the Porsche Cayenne SUV and Nissan GT-R supercar, for reference. But some of the features are even better, Im said. And Hyundai’s N-badged vehicles will be offered at affordable prices, he added.

Hyundai’s engineering division experienced a major change under the leadership of Albert Biermann, the former vice president of engineering at BMW M Automobiles. Biermann, who now spearheads the South Korean carmaker’s performance development division, has contributed to shifting Hyundai’s approach in general.

Previously, South Korean cars had been recognized for generous interior space, ample in-vehicle options, soft steering wheels and good prices.

“Such features have led Hyundai to succeed in the North American market but not in Europe,” Im said. “To produce a car that wins recognition from Europe, we are doing our best to improve the vehicle performance.”

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com) and Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)