A Brief History of Hyundai

We take a look at the interesting history of Hyundai...

In 2010, Hyundai operated the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility. The South Korean manufacturer employs about 75,000 people worldwide, with Hyundai vehicles being sold in 193 countries around the world.

But, how did Hyundai become so successful? In this article, we look at the interesting history of Hyundai, from its conception to Genesis Motors.

When did Hyundai start making cars?

The Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company was founded in 1947. However, the Hyundai Motor Company was not established until 1967.

Interestingly, Hyundai’s first model was the Cortina. It was released in cooperation with Ford Motor Company in 1968.

They first developed their own car in February 1974. They hired George Turnbull, the former Managing Director of Austin Morris at British Leyland. In 1975 the Pony was released. This was the first ever Korean car. Exports to Ecuador began the following year and they soon started exporting to Benelux countries.

The Pony was exported to Canada where it, at one point, became the top-selling car on the market. It was not exported to the United States because it didn’t meet their emissions standards. However, in 1985 the one millionth Hyundai car was built.

So it’s safe to say Hyundai had a very successful start.

A Brief History of Hyundai

When did Hyundai start exporting to the United States?

Hyundai did end up exporting to the United States. In 1986, Hyundai exported the Excel to the United States. It was nominated as “Best Product #10” by Fortune magazine. This was largely down to how affordable the Excel was.

The Sonata followed in 1988. This was the first car Hyundai produced using their own technology. By 1990, Hyundai had produced four million vehicles. Furthering their technological independence, Hyundai produced their first proprietary gasoline engine, the four-cylinder Alpha. It also had its own transmission.

In 1996, Hyundai established Hyundai Motor India Limited. Shortly after, Hyundai began to re-brand as a world class manufacturer. To do this, Hyundai Motor Group invested heavily in the design and long-term research of its vehicles. It was also around this time that Hyundai extended their warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles in the United States.

This re-branding was mainly due to the problems that were emerging with the Excel. The cost-cutting measures to make it more affordable meant a compromise in reliability. Hyundai sales began to fall as word of their unreliability spread. Hyundai soon became a bit of a joke, and at one point made David Letterman’s Top Ten Hilarious Mischief Night Pranks to Play in Space. This was to paste a Hyundai logo on the main control panel.

When did Hyundai acquire a stake in Kia?

In 1998 Hyundai acquired the majority of Kia Motors. This was mainly due to a shake-up in the Korean auto industry and the Asian financial crisis.

Hyundai owns 33.8% of Kia, making it the majority shareholder. Kia is a minority owner of over twenty Hyundai subsidies. Stakes range from 4.9% to 45.37%.

Hyundai and Reliability

Heavy investment in North America paid off for Hyundai as it soon bounced back from its falling sales. In 2004, Hyundai tied with Honda for initial brand quality in a JD Power survey, making it second behind Toyota.

Since then, it has continued to be highly regarded in terms of quality and reliability, never slipping from the highest rankings. It has been ranked fourth in the World’s Most Admired Companies and has placed third in the JD Power survey for initial quality behind Porsche and Lexus.  

In 2010 Hyundai were ranked the fourth-best automaker, according to a Consumer Report. This was rated on performance, comfort and reliability.

When did Hyundai create Genesis?

Hyundai genesis i black driving

The Genesis brand wasn’t actually announced as a standalone marque until 2015. However, it was created in 2004 with the conception of the Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury sedan.

The Hyundai Genesis took three years to design and cost $500 million to develop. It was launched at the North American International Auto Show in 2008. The concept was unveiled a year before.

The Hyundai Genesis saw immediate success, ranking in the top three sellers in the luxury sedan market. There was such a demand for the Genesis that Hyundai decided to make it a marque in its own right.

The first model under the Genesis marque was the G90. This is also the brands flagship model. The G80 and G90 were launched in late 2016 in the United States.

Further plans for Genesis include a luxury sedan, a sports coupe and two SUVs expected to be introduced by 2020.

When was the Hyundai Santa Fe launched?

The Hyundai Santa Fe was Hyundai’s first SUV and was launched in 2000 for the model year 2001.

Despite receiving criticism in the past for Hyundai’s obscure looks, the Santa Fe was a huge hit with American markets. It quickly became Hyundai’s best seller and was one of the reasons Hyundai got back on their feet after their sales declined. It was so successful that at times, Hyundai had trouble supplying the demand.

The second generation Santa Fe was launched in 2008 and saw much of the same success. It was awarded Consumer Reports “top pick” and was among the top 10 vehicles for that year.

The third generation Santa Fe was launched in 2012 and came in two versions, regular and extended.

Hyundai santa fe in light blue metallic parked in showroom

When was the Hyundai Tucson launched?

The Hyundai Tucson is bigger than the Santa Fe and was launched in 2004.

The first generation Tucson shared its Elantra-based platform with the 2005 Kia Sportage.

In most countries apart from South Korea and the United States, the Tucson was retired for the Hyundai ix35 from 2009-2015.
However, the Tucson name came back for the third generation, where it was to be used across all markets. It was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on 2015 and also consisted of a hybrid electric and a plug-in hybrid variant.

Hyundai and Electric Vehicles

Hyundai first developed a pure electric car in 1991. It was the Sonata Electric Vehicle. They planned to have six electric vehicles for testing by the end of 1992.

The FGV-1 was a hybrid electric vehicle which was unveiled at Seoul Motor Show in 1995. The second generation hybrid vehicle was produced in 1999 and was the FGV-2. Others around this time included the Elantra HEV and the Hyundai Accent HEV.

Hyundai began officially producing hybrid electric vehicles in 2009. These vehicles included the Avante, the Santa Fe Hybrid and the Sonata Hybrid. The Hyundai i20 also comes in hybrid form.

The Hyundai Elantra LPI Hybrid, or Avante, is the world’s first hybrid electric vehicle to be powered by an internal combustion engine built to run on liquefied petroleum gas as fuel.

As of March 2014, Hyundai and Kia sold 200,000 hybrids.

And that really brings us to the present day. Hyundai are still a car manufacturing giant and are at the forefront of electric and hybrid vehicles. Kia are also still incredibly popular, and both are a common sight on British roads.

Hyundai i30
Holly Martin

Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

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