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Hyundai turns to Europe for style boost

The future starts here: New Hyundai i30 is the first car to incorporate the company's new design direction.

German-based design studio sets out make future Hyundai models 'less Korean'

25 Oct 2007

HYUNDAI’S European design centre is developing a new European corporate face for Hyundai products, using nature as its inspiration to put a more stylish face on the Korean car maker.

The company’s general manager of global engineering and design, Raphael Bretecher, who is based in Russelsheim told GoAuto during a recent Australian visit that the new i30 is the first example of the company’s new style.

“We wanted to have a car which is not too Korean, which means we wanted to have the kind of clarity in design that you have in Europe that sometimes we did not have at Hyundai in the past,” Mr Bretecher said of the i30.

“You can see the beltline, for example, it is a very clean line on the car. Even though you have this very big negative surface in the rear, it is still a very, very clean design.

“The graphics are logical, not overdone, and the grille shows the design philosophy of Hyundai.”

Mr Bretecher thinks that grille design is what will make or break Hyundai - in Europe at least.

“In Europe, if you don’t have a recognisable front end, for a range of models in the brand, you’re dead,” he told us.

“You don’t sell cars in Europe if you change constantly, if you always change the front, they don’t recognise the brand.”

1 center imageYet Russelsheim is not the centre of the Hyundai design world. Hyundai has several global design studios, with a major research and design centre in Korea and outposts in Japan and California.

There are competing interests in the Hyundai design world, and Mr Bretecher has to argue for the European point of view.

“What we try to do in Europe is to say to our Korean and American colleagues, let’s make a front end which is going to be the face of Hyundai in Europe and America and in Korea. We are not sure if the Americans and Koreans are following us with that, but in Europe it is very, very clear.”

Hyundai’s European design centre shows that the Korean company wants to be taken seriously in the world of design.

“We are part of the whole industry, and there are companies that are taking the future really seriously, and I think we are part of it at Hyundai,” said Mr Bretecher.

“We are trying to get away a little bit from this design that was a bit in the 1990s, very square, very organised. The Audi TT was a perfect car in my opinion, but it’s the end of it. We have to move on.”

There are also competing interests at Russelsheim, and Mr Bretecher says that he had to be careful to keep apart the design strategies of Hyundai and its subsidiary brand Kia.

“Our first intention is to differentiate from Kia,” he said. “Because we are all working the same brand, we want to make sure that the cars we are doing are different from Kia.

“We are all about sculptural surfaces, about interesting lines, very dynamic lines and playing with proportions. The inspiration for that is more what you can find in nature. And Kia would be more a product design it’s more technical.”

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