Hyundai has made incredible gains in the global market, challenging larger automakers in markets they once dominated. While Volkswagen has globally sold a record number of vehicles in 2011, Hyundai Motors and its Kia affiliate have exceeded VW’s numbers in the United States. According to senior analyst of auto website Edmunds.com Jessica Caldwell, “Hyundai offers compelling design at an affordable price– a win-win for must consumers. Brand exposure has long been the problem for Hyundai, but that has certainly eased.” The South Korean automaker has made some smart moves to gain publicity, including ads aired during the Super Bowl as well as the company’s sponsorship of the World Cup.
The pressure on Volkswagen doesn’t end at North America, however, as Hyundai intends to bring the fight to Europe as well. Chief operating officer Allan Rushforth for Hyundai Europe said, “It’s very important for Hyundai to be successful. Europe is a top priority because it affects how the company is perceived elsewhere.”
Just as European nations tackle a debt crisis and consumers face austerity measures, Hyundai looks to offer products that mix great value, reliability, European styling and handling. While Volkswagen focuses its attention on challenging GM and surpassing them for the title as world’s largest automaker, Hyundai sneaked up on the German Automaker as Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at Germany’s University of Applied Sciences, said, “Hyundai is one of VW’s most serious challengers. The mix of good value, quality and design is a solid basis, and they’ve been getting more innovative every year.”
During the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, a video was posted on YouTube capturing a concerned conversation between VW CEO Martin Wintekorn and his associates at Hyundai’s show floor. Upon studying the adjustable steering column inside the Hyundai i30, Winterkorn noted, “Nothing rattles. Why can they do it? BMW can’t. We Can’t.”
Winterkorn adds, “It’s become increasingly clear that whoever’s at the front has a lot of opponents. Our competitors are attacking Volkswagen all over the world.”
For Hyundai’s European offensive, the South Korean automaker has prepared a $12.4 billion investment, intended for plant upgrades and vehicle technology development. Meanwhile, Volkswagen steels itself against imminent competition by holding onto a 62.4 billion euro budget to invest in factories and new vehicles over the next five years.
GALLERY: Hyundai Elantra