Hyundai surprised the automotive world when it recently took the wraps off its unusually sexy Vision G Coupe Concept during the prestigious Monterey Car Week. A collective gasp and then some soul searching likely happened shortly afterwards, people surely contemplating what the world was coming to when the word “sexy” could legitimately be used to describe a Hyundai.
Initial reactions to the concept were split on opposite ends of the spectrum. People either thought it was beautiful and should be put into production right away, or they hated it and thought it was just a copycat. Either way, Chris Chapman, Hyundai’s chief U.S. designer, welcomes the strong opinions.
“I welcome polarization and the hot and cold,” he said in a recent interview during Pebble Beach festivities. “I’d rather have that than something lukewarm, which doesn’t make a statement.”
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Peter Schreyer, Hyundai/Kia’s design director, agrees.
“If there is some friction and if there are opposite opinions, this is a good thing,” he said. “Being neutral is not what we want.”
The Vision G is anything but neutral and it generated a lot of buzz when it was unveiled, arguably because it was so controversial. Characterized by its strong yet elegant lines, the concept for a future grand touring sports coupe has a design that’s bold without being obscene. Keeping it clean and simple was Hyundai’s secret for success.
“Peter and I are really into simple design and hate when superficiality becomes the thing that disguises bad proportions and extra design elements that are not needed,” Chapman said. “It’s a perfect design when you can’t eliminate any more lines. If you take away one element, the whole thing falls apart like Jenga. We took away as much as possible, and the design still has integrity.”
Proper proportion is something many automakers struggle with, and if a car’s proportion is off, it won’t sit right with consumers. A proper proportion was one of Hyundai’s main design goals for the Vision G, Schreyer said.
“People talk too much about shapes and lines,” he said. “For me, the big picture and proportion is always more important. I want people to immediately know from a distance what a car is.”
“To me, Audi was a very good school. We learned about the same things we’re taking about today. Things like precision and the way you do a proper proportion.”
He sees Kia and Hyundai following in a similar trajectory as Audi. Before Audi became the huge seller it is today, it used to be an automotive afterthought, a quirky European automaker without much prestige or presence in the market. The big picture goal is to one day have Hyundai and Kia have a larger market share and be top of mind for consumers when it comes to luxury cars, kind of like Audi.
The Vision G is one step in that direction. When it was unveiled, some critics said that from some angles, it looked too much like an Infiniti, a Bentley, a Jaguar, or an Aston Martin. Some said Hyundai stole the interior right out of a Mercedes S-Class. What was important here is that no one said it looked like something lower-end; these are all upmarket brands, so these criticisms are actually compliments in Hyundai’s eyes.
“This is meant to be a high-end car, so the associations are there for a purpose,” Schreyer said (pictured, left). “If people didn’t say that, then we probably have failed.”
Chapman (pictured, right) adds that cars that create an emotional connection will help elevate the brand.
“The company has made big strides in getting themselves on the map and getting into the consciousness of the people. They did that by playing with emotional cars. We finally went from bland to grand,” he said. “As long as we can stay on this course of emotional appeal, we’re going to be in a really good position.”
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