Hyundai Car Manufacturers

August 12, 2015

Hyundai Car Manufacturers

Ju-Yung Chung established an auto repair shop, Hyundai Auto Service, in Seou,l South Korea in 1946. The corporate symbol, a stylized "H" meant to represent the company and its customers shaking hands, is still used today. Though the name "Hyundai" translates to "modern" in English, its first vehicles were anything but.

Founded in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company signed an agreement with Ford to assemble its Cortina and Granada models through 1976 for the Korean market, and used the opportunity to learn all it could about producing automobiles from an established automaker. The South Korean government, however, wanted to spur economic growth by underwriting the production of Korean-designed vehicles, and Hyundai--along with Daewoo, Kia and Ssangyong--took up the challenge.

Italy's ItalDesign was tapped to style the Hyundai Pony, and Hyundai contracted former British Leyland managers to oversee the car's development. Powered by a Mitsubishi inline four-cylinder engine, the Pony proved to be an export success in Europe but never made it to the U.S. That would have to wait until the Excel was launched in 1985. This small front-drive hatchback and sedan cost just $4,995 and sold 126,000 units in its first year--its low price largely atoned for its less than stellar initial quality. Back home, Hyundai continued to work closely with Mitsubishi, leaning on the Japanese company for powertrain and development expertise.

By 1990, the fast-moving automaker had erected a plant in Bromont, Quebec, Canada, and introduced its first all-Hyundai design, the Sonata. Though styled by ItalDesign and still using elements of Mitsubishi's engine designs, the Sonata was aimed squarely at the U.S. market, and included both an inline four-cylinder and a V-6 engine. It was soon joined by a coupe version of the Excel, called the Scoupe, that used Hyundai's first all-Korean engine design, the Alpha. In 1991, it was joined by the Elantra, an in-house complement to the aging Excel that was powered by Hyundai's 1.6-liter Beta engine. From this point on, Hyundai was a full-service automaker.

By the time the Accent replaced the Excel in 1995, both the Sonata and Elantra were on their second generation, the Scoupe was ready to be replaced by the Tiburon, and the Delta V-6 was in development. However, the 1997 Asian financial crisis led to the merger of Hyundai and Kia.

DaimlerChrysler purchased 10.5% of Hyundai-Kia in 2000 and sold the stake four years later, but that ultimately didn't alter Hyundai's trajectory. Hyundai moved forward with plans for the 3.0- and 3.5-liter Sigma V-6s, increased its quality control efforts, entered the crossover market with the Santa Fe, and opened a plant in Alabama in 2005. In addition, it opened or expanded research and development centers in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Frankfurt, Germany, and a design center in Irvine, Calif.

In 2008, Hyundai moved beyond the near-luxury segment populated by its Azera sedan and Veracruz crossover, and introduced the Genesis, a rear-drive V-8-powered sedan that will spawn a rear-drive replacement for the front-drive Tiburon. Both underline the promise of the English translation of the company's name.