If you’ve ever found yourself thinking ‘there’s a bit too much tech in this car, why couldn’t it just be simpler?’ - there’s every chance you’d get along with Albert Biermann.
He’s the man responsible for driving performance for Genesis as part of Hyundai Motor Company - his position title is executive vice president for vehicle testing and high performance development - and he suggested to Australian media at the launch of the 2018 Genesis G70 that technology in some luxury cars is getting to the point of superfluousness.
“In our G90 [large sedan] you will not find any air suspension, or active roll-bars, or active whatever, or a camera sensing the road, and this stuff. It’s stupid,” Biermann said, referring to the active suspension system of Mercedes-Benz that effectively reads the road and adjusts the suspension to suit it. You see that tech in the S-Class.
Biermann clearly thinks that a mechanical approach can, sometimes, be better than a technological one. In fact, he admitted that in some instances, more technology could be a burden on the owner at a later date.
“It’s a logical conclusion,” he said. “We’ve been through this – the predecessor [to the G90] had air suspension, and that’s the reason the successor car has no air suspension. Or one of the reasons.
“We have a solid Hyundai steel platform, tonnes of high-strength steel – okay, it’s a little bit heavier than the other cars – and we have adjustable shock absorbers, and that’s it. We still outpace the S-Class in the double lane-change in Consumer Reports. We almost beat the BMW, without all the fancy stuff,” he said.
As Biermann puts it, the technology race that the European brands seem to be engaged in is less about the customer, and more about the coverage they can get.
“It’s all marketing, first of all. How many people really buy it later on? Much of this exists for media, to give a hype, to show the technology level. But how many people really buy it later on?”
Further to that, and despite having petrol in his veins, Biermann said that buyers of luxury models – particularly high-end offerings – don’t need a track-ready car, which also seems to be a preoccupation of the luxury marques against which Genesis competes in some markets.
“Look, if I want to sell a G90 to a US customer – there are other [manufacturers] that show their flagship car on the race track, the car in the luxury car segment. They show all the race-track talent, but which 2.2-tonne luxury segment car will ever see the race track?” he posited.
“We don’t do this kind of stuff. We work for the customer, first of all, and not so much for the media. Of course we do some stuff for the media, but first of all we do that stuff for the customer, that we think has reasonable value for the money,” he said.
Biermann is a strong believer in reliability, a value shared and promoted by the wider Hyundai Motor Company. His role means he could have access to driver-focused technological features to employ in some models, but Biermann said that durability and reliability is what buyers and owners will remember, rather than gimmicky tech and short-term turnaround of cars.
“I mean, you have to understand – every Hyundai, every Kia, and every Genesis, we have very good value for the money. The G90 meets this very well, the G80 and also the G70. And then we have very good quality, and long-term reliability.
“Our concept is not always thinking ‘leasing, leasing, leasing’ customers. In Korea, almost nobody is leasing a car. They buy it, and then they sell it at some point later. And the whole approach is different – our chairman, he always says '10 years later, these Hyundai cars should be like new'. He just says it, like that. And he has never changed that statement. He’s chasing us to be aware of this,” Biermann said.
“Sometimes we think ‘this is impossible’, but that is our philosophy. And this is also the reason that sometimes, in some area of performance, I cannot just go to that point where other companies go, because I know that when we test this to our standards, our durability test standards, it’s going to fail.”
Biermann said that, along with 30,000 kilometres of development driving at the Korean company’s headquarters in Namyang, models will also be put through a gruelling 10,000km at the Nurburgring in Germany.
“I don’t think anyone else is doing that anymore – maybe Porsche or Ferrari, but all the other guys they’ve stepped down from 10,000km to 8000km or 5000km – and some, they do nothing anymore,” he said. “That can give you an idea about how crazy we are about testing and our quality and durability standards.”