DAVID EVANS

“Hyundai is big deal in in­dus­try”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - AGREE/DIS­AGREE? mn.let­ters@hay­mar­ket.com

When the bus turned the cor­ner and the 8.8 mil­lionth square me­tre of steel­works came into view, the big­ger pic­ture sud­denly be­came clear: Hyundai’s mas­sive. In all hon­esty, we knew that – there’s noth­ing tri­fling about sell­ing 4.96 mil­lion cars a year. But I had no idea it was quite this big. The dis­ap­point­ment at the loss of Rally China ear­lier this month was com­pounded by the po­ten­tial knock-on dis­rup­tion to my on­ward travel: I’d been sched­uled to go from Bei­jing to Seoul for a nose around Hyundai’s home turf. It was with some re­lief that the mes­sage from the Frank­furt end of the Korean op­er­a­tion was still about fly­ing east, al­beit a few days later than planned.

That’s how I ended up read­ing Korean Au­to­car in Hyundai’s groovy Gang­nam dis­trict Mo­torstu­dio on a sunny Mon­day af­ter­noon. What style.

And be­hind that style is some se­ri­ous sub­stance, as you’d ex­pect for a com­pany em­ploy­ing 110,000 peo­ple around the world and gen­er­at­ing a Group-wide rev­enue of £140 bil­lion a year. But what cuts Hyundai apart in the mo­tor in­dus­try is its ap­proach to the means to pro­duc­tion.

Be­ing held hostage to the price of steel is a worry through­out the world of car man­u­fac­tur­ing, which is why Hyundai elected to forge a fix by mak­ing its own. And while it was mak­ing some for it­self, it might as well make a bit more and see if they could sell it. That, in prin­ci­ple, is how Hyundai Steel ended up mak­ing 24 mil­lion tonnes of the stuff an­nu­ally.

Soon af­ter pass­ing through the gates pic­tures were pro­hib­ited, but our guide was full of a fas­ci­nat­ing story which talked of iron-ore ar­riv­ing from Aus­tralia, Brazil and Rus­sia and its jour­ney into flat sheets of steel via 1600 de­grees in ei­ther a blast or elec­tric arc fur­nace (the site has both).

Watch­ing lengths of steel pass by in the fin­ish­ing mill was a gen­uine as­sault on the senses. Granted, much of the heat had gone out of it by then… it was only around 1200 de­grees when it rolled by 20 me­tres in front of us! The ef­fect was like some­body turn­ing an elec­tric fire right in your face.

Talk­ing of elec­tric, Hyundai makes its own with a coal-fired sta­tion at Dangjin. Even the ships which de­liver the near-five mil­lion cars sold around the world each year are made from Hyundai’s home­grown steel.

The only down­side to the trip was the strik­ing work­ers at the re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tre in Namyang. The Korean equiv­a­lent of Bore­ham was the thing I was look­ing for­ward to the most, but the PR folk were clearly not keen to bus a bunch of hacks across the picket line.

It didn’t mat­ter. The mes­sage was re­ceived. Loud and clear. Hyundai’s a big deal, a very big deal. Get it. Volk­swa­gen? Pah, they prob­a­bly don’t even have their own power sta­tion, let alone the prod­uct to pipe oil from one side of the world to the other.

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