We recently ran a news piece that covered the breaking headline that Chris Chapman has left BMW to work for Hyundai. This news clipping is important enough to mull over for a second time.
I’ve long said that if I didn’t own a BMW, I’d own a Hyundai. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It would have been crazy to make such a statement 10 years ago, but in 2012 Hyundai is looking good. I should elaborate on that statement by adding that if I gave up driving a BMW and was no longer interested in performance driving, track days and drifting, I would own a Hyundai. Basically, removing performance from the performance driving equation leaves you with simple driving, and that is an area where Hyundai is awfully good at providing maximum value.
Hyundai now represents the reliable, good value option that the Japanese once represented with their late 80s, 90’s and early new-millennium offerings. Unfortunately, Toyota lost their way in a large way, not only losing their enviable reliability record (note the 14 million recalls since winter 2009) but also losing their honest design philosophy, and sporting edge of the past. To be fair, Toyota does have the FT-86 on the way – a brilliant new sports car for all that should right a few wrongs, but a single candle can’t light a factory. Honda has also lost their way, never putting a foot wrong in the area of reliability, but totally losing inspiration in design. Have you seen a recent Honda that excited you or made you want a test drive? The last car to get our juices flowing was the S2000, which has been discontinued. Honda’s Acura division also shut down production of the venerable if slightly underpowered NSX, leaving a bunch of out-dated mutts to tow the line of mediocrity. How sad.
Hyundai on the other hand has been reaching for new heights without so much as a glance down at the competition from Japan. Their market share has been growing – doubling actually – over the last few years and they now find themselves sitting at around 5% of the US market share. That might not sound like much, but given their trajectory of sales growth, Hyundai are en route to make the big players nervous.
What should make the competition even more nervous is the fact that with Hyundai’s growth, they are attracting top designers such as Chris Chapman. Chris has been in the industry for 22 years and after leaving BMW, now stands to lead Hyundai’s design center in Irvine, California to bold new heights.
Cars such as Hyundai’s new Veloster are sure to make a huge dent in the market. We’re looking forward to seeing where Chris leads the South Korean company.