Beware the Veloster
Fast fours, prestige sedans ... What’s going on at Hyundai?
A SINISTER flat-black Veloster Turbo is carving the country’s best driving roads as Hyundai pushes for the final breakthrough in Australia.
It’s chasing the ingredient that will elevate the Korean brand beyond the mainstream and into the space where cars sell because they are good, not just good value.
The stealthy Veloster — dubbed “Veloster Raptor” internally — is powered by the dreams of the Australian engineering crew and the skill of World Rally Championship driver Chris Atkinson.
But the Veloster project could be overtaken, and blown away, as Hyundai gets serious about becoming more than just the “$990 car company” across the globe.
After nearly two decades with cars that put value above anything, and invariably tout a Target-style pricetage with the numbers 990 at the end of the showroom sticker, Hyundai wants to be taken seriously.
As a statement of intent, it’s about to confirm a Genesis luxury flagship for Australia, it is tackling the World Rally Championship from January and is announcing an all-new performance division called N.
The N development shows the greatest promise.
Hyundai knows that it needs a high-performance halo to shine on its shopping trolleys, a la AMG at Mercedes-Benz, M at BMW, ST and RS at Ford and even S and RS at Audi.
Here it could be as important as the Holden Special Vehicles wand for the Commodore or the RenaultSport badge, which has become the calling card for the whole French brand.
“N is a step-change for our brand,” Hyundai spokesman Bill Thomas tells Carsguide. “This is a serious engineering operation producing cars for driving enthusiasts.”
Hyundai guys joke that “N is one better than M”. However, it stands for Namyang, the site of Hyundai’s research-anddevelopment HQ. I first visited Namyang in the early 1990s, when the Excel was nothing more than a throwaway car, and was staggered by the number of simultaneous programs and engineering facilities.
It took a long time for Namyang to advance beyond basic engineering — the likes of fuel economy and quiet transmissions — but in the past five years it has been responsible for the road-up improvements that have been driving Hyundai and baby brother Kia.
The real proof of the Namyang work comes in 2014 with the Genesis, a 3.8-litre V6 prestige sedan that that’s closest in concept to a Holden Calais. Hyundai has flopped with previous attempts to go upmarket — typified by the dismal Terracan SUV and the chintzy Grandeur sedan — but we expect confirmation of release details at next month’s Detroit motor show with prices in the high $50,000 range.
On the N front, few details have emerged since the announcement of the new division at the unveiling of the WRC contender last week.
But the short speech of Edward Lee, the former head of Hyundai in Australia and now the company’s global vicepresident of international sales, underscores the company’s
Namyang style: The N performance division seeks to be Hyundai’s halo badge