The fact that we’re in Frankfurt for a special preview of the new 2017 Hyundai i30 should probably be a clue, but, nonetheless, the company is pleased to tell us that there’s a strong European focus about its new-generation hatch.
“A car designed and engineered in Europe for the most discerning European buyers” was a sentiment that came up more than once, during this week’s unveiling. As was the reiteration that Hyundai wants to be the number-one Asian brand in Europe by 2020.
Lofty goals indeed.
With that decidedly European focus on the car itself, not to mention design, development and engineering, how does a proud South Korean company feel about that reality?
“Head office knows the importance of the Europe focus, and they have to justify every project,” said Thomas Burkle, Chief Designer, Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre GmbH.
“The investment is huge – they have to pay for it, don’t forget. They know that the European market is the most demanding.”
It’s not just build quality, either, that Europeans demand. There’s a lot more to it than that, as Hyundai is finding out with each new vehicle it launches into the various European markets.
“There’s the product quality, obviously, but there’s also ride and handling,” Burkle told CarAdvice.
“All this costs money and requires concerted investment. The European market isn’t the most profitable either.”
Burkle went on to explain that Hyundai hasn’t taken the easy road by investing so heavily in European infrastructure – including a testing facility at the Nurburgring and manufacturing plants in Turkey and the Czech Republic.
“It’s not so easy, then, to do what we are doing here in Europe compared to China or Brazil or some some other markets,” Burkle said.
“On the other hand, South Korea knows that if the car can exist here, if it can compete and succeed against brands like Audi or VW, for example… they have pride, they know the investment can work.”
That’s why Hyundai now has such a deep infrastructure in Europe, and why you can expect that commitment to continue – and indeed expand – in the coming years. It’s a small, but significant part of Hyundai’s desire to compete at the very highest level in both sales and quality of product.
“That’s why the Nurburgring test facility is so important, too. It’s not just about lap times – Hyundai has punished the new i30 mercilessly on the ‘Green Hell’.
“As we showed you at the press conference, this car has completed more than 10,000km in testing around the ‘ring alone. We equate that to approximately 150,000km of normal use,” Burkle told CarAdvice.
“If this car does not break down on the ‘ring, then you can be assured it will bring you safely through Australia, for example.”
Burke is encouraged by reports that the length of warranty and faith in the product has had a lasting impact in our market.
“Reliability and build quality, and with that kind of warranty, you put your trust in the car,” Burkle said.
“We know the car doesn’t break down. Reliability might sound boring to many people, but it is so important. Especially in such remote areas like you have in Australia. We can’t have cars breaking down.”
Burkle is adamant that a focus on the most demanding buyers in the world – in Hyundai’s opinion, in Europe – means it can deliver a better product to every other market around the world including Australia.
“Reliability is an absolutely essential quality for us to have,” he said. “Of course you need product quality but you have to trust the car.
“You value your family, in fact it’s the most valuable asset you have. You put them inside this car, it’s about safety and reliability.”
Except future iterations of the i30 to feature the same sense of European style to the design brief, but also a European focus on quality, badge integrity and reliability.
Hyundai might be South Korean, but there’s no coincidence it is more European now than ever before.