Although Hyundai Motor Co was started in December 1967, it was 1976 before they built their own car. For the first eight years Hyundai only produced cars under licence for ford until the Korean government created a plan to promote the domestic automobile industry in 1973. Hyundai was one of four companies planned to develop a Korean passenger car by 1975 along with SsangYong, Kia and Daewoo. Under the new government plan Hyundai took advantage of the low interest loans available from state controlled banks.
After approaching a total of 26 firms, Hyundai formed an agreement with Italdesign Giugiaro for body styling and with Mitsubishi for technology to develop their own cars. Mitsubishi also gave Hyundai finical aid and provided parts. Hyundai Pony was launched in January 1976, the company’s first car. It was initially launched as a four door fastback with the pick-up added in May 1976, an estate added in April 1977 and finally a three door hatchback added in March 1980. The pony remained in production until 1994. In 1984 Hyundai launched the Excel, this was essentially a Pony but with front wheel drive, a first for the Korean manufacture. With a price tag of $4995 in America sales took off, selling almost 168,000 in the first year and introducing the idea of a spare car. It seemed that this had lunched Hyundai to quick success, but thanks to poor build quality Hyundai earned a poor reputation of which it has only recently got rid of. Despite the poor reputation the Excel had the best sales in the US compact car category in 1989.
1991 witnessed the development of the first Korean developed engine, Alpha. This move cost Hyundai $140 million, but it proved that Hyundai was a brand to be reckoned with as they no longer would rely on Mitsubishi for their technology. Hyundai’s continued strive for independence continued with the development of the Epsilon engine in 1997 and the performance v6 delta engine the year after. In 1999 Hyundai developed Korea’s first automotive fuel cell with Korea’s first fuel cell vehicle the year after and later became a world leading by developing the world’s first ultra-high pressure hydrogen storage system in 2003.
2004 Hyundai breaks the national record by exceeding 10 million exports and entered the 100 best global brands cemented Hyundai’s reputation as a big player in the automotive industry in 2005. In 2008 Hyundai premiered the eco-friendly concept car I-mode. The tau engine was listed as world’s auto 10 best engines. By 2010, only 34 years after producing their first car, Hyundai has sold more than 3.6 million cars worldwide in more than 180 countries.
Made in Korea: Chung Ju Yung and the Rise of Hyundai. Richard M. Steers
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