New thinking, really!

SEOUL, Korea– Hyundai is changing. Actually, the change is well under way. Moving from a new automaker bent on building sales in export markets, Hyundai has evolved its thinking to being qualitative rather than quantitative and is no longer chasing a goal of being the biggest car maker in the world – just the best loved.

Enshrined within its current ‘tag line’ of ‘New Thinking. New Possibilities.’ is a broad spectrum of directional shifts not limited only to the cars being produced by the company, but also to the way in which the cars are being manufactured.

As the only motor manufacturer in the world with its own steel plant, the changes – much linked to ensuring environmental concerns are met – are evident in the costly, but effective fully enclosed raw material preparation facilities where the iron ore (10% of which is imported from South Africa) is processed before going to the furnace. Enclosed in massive geodesic domes, the pollution from dust is drastically reduced during the crushing process.

The steel factory also recycles all water, generates its own electricity and has its own sewage plant, converting human waste into industrial use water for the cooling processes as thousands of tons of iron ore is converted into the rolled and sheet steel gobbled up by the manufacturing plants within Korea at Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju.

As a point of reference – the Ulsan plant is the largest single auto plant in the world and produced 1,5-million cars last year.

Total investment in the plant came to $9,48-billion and the new blast furnace due to come on line shortly will increase total steel production from all centres (Dangjin, Pohung and Incheon) to 24-million tons a year.

“We work ceaselessly for customer satisfaction and will open new roads with new initiatives. Hyundai Motor Company will stand at the forefront of the global motor industry,” says Chairman and CEO Chung Mong-Koo.

“New ideas create new values. We will respond to the fast-changing international management environment by constructing a system for organic cooperation between production factory and sales headquarters in each country worldwide, strengthening quality management and expanding research and development in eco-friendly vehicles.”

Hyundai Motor Company was established in 1967 and a year later signed a licensing agreement for the CKD assembly of the Ford Cortina. In 1974 the Turin Motor Show hosted the launch of the Pony, Hyundai’s first proprietary car. In 1986 it entered the US market with the Excel and launched the first generation Grandeur (Azera) in Korea, followed by Sonata two years later.

The company’s first in-house engine was launched in 1991 and the same year it developed the electric Sonata. In 1996 the Asan plant came on stream, the Tiburon was launched and in 1998 it acquired Kia Motors leading to the formation of Hyundai Motor Group in 2000. In 2002 the Irvine, USA, design and technical centre opened followed in 2003 by one in Russelsheim, Germany. In 2008 the Tau engine was launched along with the Genesis, a second plant in India and in 2010 it achieved more than 5% of global market share.

A new plant is under construction in Brazil and, while consideration for a South African facility is not on the cards, it certainly is not off the list of future possibilities. Hyundai in South Africa is distributed by Hyundai South Africa, part of the AMH Group, but Hyundai has distributor agreements in all African countries with a small SKD plant in Egypt.

Hyundai’s growing spread of vehicle offerings from passenger cars through SUV, MPV and commercials (including its own specialist luxury brand, Equus) face tough competition in a world gripped by eco-fever where more for less is paramount, safety and low emissions absolutes.
Hyundai has established R&D centres at various places around the world, but this does not stop the ongoing work at Namyang, which features a 70-kilometre test track, 34 types of road and 71 different road surfaces from undertaking extensive new product development, engine design and safety testing.

The Namyang facility includes a complete production facility where vehicles can be built from scratch, tested and sometimes destroyed in the massive crash test facility where I witnessed a brand new Azera take on a 50 km/h side-impact.

On site is a huge wind tunnel along with rain/snow/heat chambers, acoustic testing and electronic interference testing and laboratories for the development of new in-car systems, infotainment and safety items.

Part of this includes development of hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles – some of which Hyundai has already released into world markets with the infrastructure capable of sustaining them and, should South Africa move towards making recharging facilities available, it would also become a consideration for Hyundai South Africa.

“South Africa is an important market for Hyundai even though it currently accounts for only around 1% of our global sales,” says William Lee, Executive Vice-President of Overseas Sales. “We see the market in South Africa growing and Hyundai wants to be a big part of that.”

For South Africa, managing director Alan Ross is confident Hyundai can increase its footprint during 2012 providing world demand (and Hyundai is expecting to sell more than 4-million units this year) does not limit stock availability to our market.

“There were some stock issues last year and we could certainly have sold more,” he says.

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Colin Windell

Colin Windell is an apprentice retiree, petrolhead, rock music addict, lover of fine food and has been writing about cars for more than 40 years.

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