Authoritative British weekly motoring magazine, Autocar, has named high-stepping Korean carmaker, Hyundai-Kia, as Automotive Manufacturer of the Year
Editor Chas Hallett says that “when the irrepressible Hyundai-Kia group started talking, just a few years ago, about wanting to become the world’s fifth largest car company behind Toyota, GM, Ford and Audi-VW, many of us were sceptical.
“Then the Korean group got serious. They hatched a plan to assemble a European design and engineering team to conceive a range of models for Europe.
“Boldly, they challenged the VW Golf and Ford Focus head on, building cars that looked as good and worked as well – and offering them with a far longer warranty, just for good measure.
“They began to acquire a reputation as the Eastern marques that would bring forth bold design concepts, much as Citroen has been doing in Europe, and they built separate factories for Hyundai and Kia in lower-cost Eastern Europe, servicing both operations from handily placed engine and gearbox plants.”
Hyundai and Kia merged in 1998 and currently hold 80 percent of the Korean new car market.
Hyundai-Kia has factories in North America, China, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Korea and South East Asia. Both companies began making automobiles in the 1960s and didn’t start exporting their products until the 1980s.
In 2006, New Zealand's Auto Trader magazine named Kia as the Marque of the Year in its 25th anniversary awards. It was the first award the car maker had picked up anywhere in the world; many were to follow.
Hyundai and Kia cars share common platforms and running gear with different sheetmetal, though their products are aimed at slightly different market segments.
In recent years each brand has shaken off the image of being a manufacturer of cheap cars built to a price, and has become a significant international force.
Kia’s diminutive Picanto minicar has set new standards of solidity and ride in the minicar segment, and Hyundai’s Sante Fe has set a compact SUV benchmark.