Namyang, South Korea - Hyundai is developing sports cars in its latest attempt to spruce up its brand image while it tries to stem a slide in mainstream sales.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday, Hyundai presented concept and rally cars using technology from its new “N” sub-brand - named for German race track Nurburgring and its own Namyang research and development centre. The cars are meant to give a glimpse of features like new powertrains and slick handling devised in a high-performance push led by a 30-year veteran engineer hired away from Germany's BMW AG.
Emulating German rivals has become a feature of strategy at Hyundai, the world's fifth-largest carmaker by sales along with affiliate Kia, as firms like BMW and Volkswagen have grown in its backyard. While its niche luxury Genesis sedan is selling well, Hyundai has slid to six straight drops in quarterly profit on weak sales of the mass-market sedans which fuelled its rise.
“Hyundai doesn't stand for high-performance car...not yet,” said Albert Biermann, the 58-year-old former chief engineer for BMW's “M” sports car brand. Biermann spoke in a recent group interview at Hyundai's Namyang facility just outside Seoul, where Peter Schreyer, another German, holds sway as design chief for both Hyundai and Kia.
EXCITING NEW DIRECTION