By Colin Campbell - Monday, February 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
‘A very difficult year’ for Hyundai and Kia gets worse
Last year, Hyundai, along with Kia, which it partly owns, admitted it had overstated fuel-efficiency ratings on some new cars and promised to compensate buyers. This week, the carmakers revealed just how much the error will cost. They have set aside nearly half a billion dollars (US$225 million for Hyundai and US$187 million for Kia).
The hit comes at an already tough time for the South Korean companies. While they’ve been enjoying rising sales in North America, one key advantage—favourable exchange rates—is deteriorating fast as the won rises against the dollar and the yen in Japan, home to chief rival Toyota. Last week, Hyundai reported that its quarterly profit fell a surprising 5.5 per cent. Over the past four years, Hyundai was the world’s fastest growing automaker. Now, facing what company chairman Chung Mong Koo calls “a very difficult year,” that streak seems certain to come to an abrupt halt.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 7:20 AM - 0 Comments
The German auto manufacturer simplifies its style
It’s rare to hear a car manufacturer describe the styling of its vehicles as anything other than “bold,” but that’s effectively the message coming out of Volkswagen these days. Walter de’Silva, the head of design for VW Group, recently told the Automotive News that the era of “over-design” is over as far as he’s concerned. De’Silva said VW’s upcoming vehicles will dispense with the character lines and flared fenders that have become de rigueur among carmakers over the past decade. It’s a look that began with cars like the Toyota Matrix and reached its pinnacle with the three-door (one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger’s) Hyundai Veloster and its gaping hexagonal grill, swept headlights and pinched rear-end. One 2013 Veloster reviewer compared the overall effect to a “slip-on sports shoe.” The risk with more radical designs is that they tend to look dated much sooner. “There is a certain security in our design,” explained de’Silva, referring to perennially popular and relatively conservative-looking cars like the VW Golf. “When you know that it keeps the resale value, it’s important for a family. That’s our intention.”
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 10 Comments
Once the butt of jokes, the South Korean companies are suddenly the fastest-growing automakers
Hyundai’s entry into the North American car market in the 1980s was an inauspicious one. Though low-priced models like the Excel and the Pony attracted frugal buyers, the South Korean company’s name quickly became synonymous with unreliable cars, and even found itself the butt of comedians’ jokes. But these days, Hyundai and its sister brand Kia have become the biggest growth stories in the automotive world—so much so that some are talking about the possibility of South Korea one day rivalling Japan’s industry clout. Continue…
By Colin Campbell - Saturday, July 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 3 Comments
It’s not just cars that are getting smaller, so are car companies
If you think everyone in the auto sector is feeling grim these days, then you haven’t talked to John Vernile. The vice-president of sales at Hyundai Auto Canada says the recent turmoil has been nothing but good news. Sales for the South Korean automaker are up “in every segment,” he says—amounting to an overall surge in sales of 20 per cent during the first half of this year. “When this downturn hit, it just dialled things up for us,” he says. Thanks in part to the demand for Hyundai’s smaller cars, the company has suddenly emerged as one of the dominant players, not just in North America but globally. It’s now the fifth-largest carmaker in the world. In quality surveys, it ranks ahead of Toyota and Honda. Market share is up, sales are up, and opportunity abounds. Despite the tough economic times, “we quietly celebrate here,” says Vernile.
That kind of talk should have struggling industry heavyweights such as General Motors, which just emerged from bankruptcy protection, in panic mode. It is, after all, a revolutionary shift from 20 years ago when Hyundai was best known for the Pony, a small, cheap and just plain ugly car. Today, Hyundai has one of the hottest cars on the road with the Genesis, a sleek and expensive sedan that won the North American and Canadian car of the year awards. “Who would have ever thought we’d be selling a car over $40,000?” quips Vernile. “We can’t keep them in stock.” Continue…
By Colin Campbell - Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 8:00 AM - 36 Comments
As GM files bankruptcy, a look at who’s to blame and what’s next for the U.S. auto industry
UPDATE (June 1, 2009): General Motors, the once proud icon of U.S. capitalism, filed for bankruptcy Monday. In the following piece, published last November in Maclean’s, Colin Campbell navigates through the rise and fall of the U.S. auto industry. In doing so, he identifies what went wrong at GM and explains whether the car company is even worth saving.
In hall No. 5, tucked far away from the main action at the high-profile Paris Motor Show last month, visitors who looked hard enough would have found the booth belonging to General Motors Corp. Those who went to the trouble—and not many did—were disappointed with what they found.
Paris was the place GM had decided to raise the curtain on a critical piece of its future in a world increasingly focused on efficiency and economy—the Chevy Cruze. The Detroit company is pinning its hopes on the lightweight Cruze to lure car buyers in Asia, Europe and North America away from bestsellers like the Honda Civic. Yet there were none of the usual showbiz trappings at its unveiling: no models leaning against the hood, no rock-concert special effects to usher in the age of the Cruze. Just a plain white stage and the car itself: a conventional, even understated, four-door family sedan. It “had all the pomp and circumstance of a Tuesday,” noted one auto critic. Perhaps it was just as well then that few journalists bothered to show up.
Most automakers look to the Paris show to highlight their next small, fuel-efficient wonders. It’s a science fair disguised as a car show. Mercedes-Benz and BMW were unveiling their first hybrids. Nissan snagged attention with its tiny Nuvu. Hyundai brought along its new mini-car, the i20. But at GM’s second-floor exhibit, visitors were confronted by a collection of massive Hummers and a hulking Cadillac Escalade. “This was emblematic of GM,” says Maryann Keller, an independent auto analyst who has covered the industry since the 1970s. “Here’s this show dedicated to small cars, new technologies, electric vehicles. Why, to Paris, would you bring Hummers, the Escalade and a Camaro? What planet are you on?” Continue…