Sunday, January 28, 2007

International snobbery

It's finally happened. I've gone international. Recently, I got a hit from someone in Seoul, South Korea. In honor of this historic occasion, I've decided to share some thoughts on the Korean contingent within our US auto market. I speak of course of the rising juggernaut that is Hyundai/Kia.

These brands not so long ago were a pop culture punchline. But more recently they've begun gaining the sort of cred that comes with being the number 3 brand in the latest JD Power Initial Quality survey. Numbers 1 and 2? Porsche and Lexus. That's right, Hyundais are now better built than Toyotas and Hondas.

But Hyundai is far from perfect. Take their latest concept, the HCD-10 Hellios (left). To me, it kinda looks like their just rehashing old ideas (below), but with a slightly different take. I also saw a quote from a car designer in AutoWeek, saying that sometimes it's difficult for an automaker to get over its "addiction" to this kind of concept. Let's hope for all of our sakes that the beauty shot session for Hyundai's next concept moves out of the desert.

The two divisions are also badly in need of a shared design language. I had the opportunity to talk to Joel P&%^#* (whatever the name of their designer is) at an auto show, and I asked him if it would become more consistent. He brushed me off in a snooty designer manner, apparently revealing that design consistency ranks on his list of priorities right below the shape of the gas tank.

Hyundai's getting better at the little things, though. Not too long ago, they didn't care whether all of the interior display lighting matched (left). Now, not only does the lighting scheme match, but it's quite stylish, too.
Their website used to be the worst car company site on the Internet. Now it's merely one of the worst. They're also adding to their value equation, with lots of standard safety equipment, and tons of space. The Elantra has more space inside than a Subaru much so that the EPA considers the Elantra a mid-size car, while calling the Legacy a compact.
It's been a long way from the Excel, but in a surprisingly short time. I'd like to welcome our South Korean friends to the big time. Oh, and by the way...better brush up on your Chinese.

No comments: