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A Threat To European Automakers: 10 Reasons Why Hyundai and Kia Thrive


A German auto magazine Auto Motor und Sport (AMS) analyzed the key ingredients to the success of Hyundai and Kia Motors, which have been growing steadily in European market. Although AMS has had introduced Hyundai and Kia's vehicles before, it is unusual for the magazine to publish a special issue like this one.

AMS read 10 reasons why Hyundai and Kia succeeded in the European market through its recently published Issue No. 18 earlier this year. He also explained that Hyundai and Kia are threatening traditional European automakers including premium car brands. What is the secret of Hyundai and Kia’s success that AMS has paid attention to? Here are the details about it.

1. Excellent design

AMS considered the excellent design to be the first key to Hyundai and Kia’s success. Photo: Hyundai Motor Company’s “Prophecy” (above) and Kia Motors’ “Imagine by Kia”

Design is the first key to the success of Hyundai and Kia cars, according to AMS. Each year, AMS conducts a “Best Cars” survey among its readers. Referring to a recent survey, they revealed the results that 20 percent of readers who purchased Hyundai and 25 percent of those who purchased Kia said the design was the biggest decision-making factor when purchasing vehicles.

Also, referring to Hyundai’s “Prophecy” and Kia Motors’ “Imagine by Kia,” the latest electric vehicle concept, the magazine read, “Their design improved significantly compared to what they made when they first came to Germany in the 1990s. We expect the designs to be applied to mass-produced cars, not just concepts. Kia has been one of the pioneers when it comes to the design,” The magazine read. “The second-generation Ceed, which targeted the European market, and the Soul, a box-type crossover, have been quite impressive.”

2. High-quality, Safety Features, and Eco-friendly Technologies at Reasonable Price

The second key to their success, according to AMS, is ‘reasonable price and reliable performance’. AMS read, “When they first got into Germany, people here considered Hyundai and Kia as ‘cheap cars’, but now these companies are brands that provide high-quality materials and various safety and eco-friendly features at reasonable price.” Also, while talking about the results of the comparative test-drive, the magazine added, “Hyundai and Kia often earned the highest score in the ‘cost’ category by providing more features and options with slightly higher price than other competitors.”

3. Reliable Durability

Hyundai and Kia have established a test center in Nurburgring, Germany, and are conducting harsh tests on their new models that are about to be launched

AMS cited the excellent durability as another strength of Hyundai and Kia. To enhance the driving performance and durability of their vehicles, Hyundai and Kia have built a test center in Nurburgring, Germany, in 2013, and have been conducting harsh tests on Nordschleife, or the northern loop. Nordschleife is a rugged 20.8-kilometer-long course that consists 73 steep corners, up to 300 meter difference in altitude, and bumpy surfaces all combined in, where Hyundai, Kia, and other global automakers conduct tests. “One of the reasons Hyundai and Kia’s new models could provide a decent level of durability is that they go through a rigorous test that lasts for 10,000 kilometers on this circuit,” AMS read. For your information, driving 10,000 kilometers on the Nurburgring circuit would be as tough as driving 180,000 kilometers on ordinary roads.

4. Excellent Warranty

Hyundai and Kia offer longer warranty periods in Europe than their competitors

Another strength of Hyundai and Kia, according to AMS, is the warranty period longer than any other automakers. In 2006, Kia launched Ceed, which was developed and manufactured in Europe, and began offering a seven-year warranty. Kia Motors then applied its seven-year warranty service to all of its models in 2010, and Hyundai also began offering a five-year warranty period (8 years for Ioniq and Kona Electric) in 2010. “Hyundai and Kia have made a strong impression on European consumers with their remarkable warranty periods,” AMS read. Their competitors, on the other hand, provided a two-year warranty and Japanese automakers did a three-year warranty. This shows how confident Hyundai and Kia were, in terms of quality.

5. Driver-friendly Ergonomic Designs

AMS talked about their ergonomic design and mentioned about Hyundai i30 as an example, which makes it easier for drivers to control the car

Ergonomics in cockpit and UX (User Experience) design, which is driver-friendly, was another catch. Hyundai Motor’s i30 was one example; AMS praised the new design that reduced physical buttons inside the vehicle and applied various infotainment features to the navigation display, while making it easier to use the menu bar. It also compared the i30’s competitor, Volkswagen Golf, and noted that ‘the change in Volkswagen was too extreme.’ AMS said that the latest model, the 8th-generation Golf, has made most of its controller inside the touch display screen, which was uncomfortable and not intuitive enough to use.

6. Ease-to-use

Hyundai and Kia’s wireless smartphone charging system and USB ports that are easy to use while driving

‘The easy-to-use interior elements are the things that make driving fun,’ AMS said. It also added that the pleasure of driving comes not only from a high-quality suspension system or high-efficient eco-friendly car, but also from the interior features that are easy-to-use. AMS said the Hyundai i30’s wireless smartphone charging system and the center console with USB ports are definitely convenient, while Volkswagen’s seventh-generation Golf needs more space to put a smartphone so that the passengers can connect it to a USB cable, indicating lack of space.

7. Automotive Emotions

Hyundai and Kia’s high-performance models are continuously drawing attention in Europe, based on their popularity in design and performance. Photo: Hyundai i30 Fastback N (above), and Kia Motors’ Stinger (below)

The European consumers definitely prefer vehicles with better driving performance, according to AMS. And Hyundai’s i30 N and Kia’s Stinger, the automakers’ high-performance models, offer an amazing driving experience. Especially the i30 N is threatening its long-standing competitor Volkswagen Golf GTI with its strong performance, taking 25% of the national vehicle sales in Germany, proving its stunning popularity.

8. Breakthrough Eco-friendly Powertrain

Hyundai Motor’s Nexo and Kona Electric manifest Hyundai and Kia’s technology for eco-friendly powertrains

AMS’ favorable reviews about the high-quality powertrain technology included their eco-friendly models. According to the tests AMS conducted, the Hyundai Kona Electric drove 536 kilometers on a single charge. The Kona Electric’s range is officially 484 kilometers based on the European standard, but the result emphasizes that it can perform greater efficiency depending on how you drive. The recent driving test conducted in Lausitz Circuit in Germany also concluded that Kona Electric can drive more than 1,000 kilometers, which is also an example of the remarkable efficiency of the vehicle.

It also unveiled its analysis of hydrogen fuel cell technology applied to Nexo. AMS reported that Hyundai will not only manufacture Nexo, the automaker’s FCEV model, in a non-commercial vehicle version but will also actively utilize the company’s hydrogen fuel cell technology for their commercial vehicles. In order to do so, Hyundai, which has already established the world’s first mass-production system for large-sized hydrogen-powered trucks in April this year, exported 10 hydrogen-powered truck Xcient to Switzerland in early July. And by 2025, Hyundai plans to export a total of 1,600 hydrogen-electric trucks to Europe to become one of the pioneers building a hydrogen society.

9. Customized Tech Development and Production Facilities in Europe

Hyundai and Kia are building tech labs and production plants in Europe, and working on developing exclusive models targeted for European consumers. Photo: The Hyundai Motor European Technical Center

AMS also pointed out that the tech labs and manufacturing plant built in Europe would be one of the key factors that drove the company’s success. The automaker established the Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Center in Rüsselsheim, Germany, in 2003, and are developing technologies that suit the environment in Europe.

The Nurburgring Test Center also produces its European models from its plants in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. Kona Electric, which sold more than 100,000 units worldwide in such a short period, started its production at the Czech plant in March this year and is responding to high demand in the European market. It takes about one year for a customer in Europe to get his Kona Electric delivered.

10. Brand Image From Sports Marketing Campaigns

Hyundai and Kia are actively engaged in marketing campaigns through soccer and motorsports, which are favored by European people. Photo: Hyundai participating in a WRC race

AMS said that the last key ingredient was Hyundai and Kia’s marketing campaigns that read the tastes of Europeans who have a special affection for soccer and motorsports. Hyundai and Kia Motors have sponsored the World Cup and other European soccer tournaments since 2002. In addition, Hyundai started its marketing campaign for motorsports by returning to the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2014, and has participated in the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in 2018, working in areas that encompass on- and off-road.

Lastly, AMS explained that Hyundai and Kia’s reputation in Europe has completely changed. The article says that Hyundai and Kia now make better cars than the traditional European automakers, such as Peugeot, Renault, Opel, and Fiat, which were competitors when Hyundai/Kia first jumped in the European market. The magazine said that the company now is trying to be one of the premium automakers, which include Mercedes-Benz, Mini, and Volkswagen. AMS predicted that if Hyundai and Kia continue to develop, they will be able to compete with those premium brands.

Hyundai and Kia have won 9 times in 22 comparative test-drive.

To introduce the automaker’s strength, AMS revealed the results of 22 comparative test drive evaluations conducted from 2019 to July 2020

AMS released data that summarizes the results of 22 comparative test drive evaluations that it conducted on its own from 2019 to July this year. According to AMS, Hyundai and Kia ranked first in a total of 22 comparative test drives. The comparison test drive of the AMS evaluates 52 items across the categories Body (100 points), Safety (100 points), Comfort (100 points), Power (100 points), Drive Performance (100 points), Eco-friendliness (50 points), and Price (100 points). Hyundai and Kia demonstrated their competitiveness by scoring an average total of 412 points in 22 trials in a comparative test-drive evaluation of a score of 650 points. This is only six points lower than the strongest competitor, who got a maximum of 418 points.

The strengths of Hyundai and Kia models in 22 comparative test-drive evaluations, ranging from small hatchbacks to mid-sized SUVs and electric vehicles, were interior space, easy-to-use controls, quality, basic convenience and safety specifications, and warranty periods. In particular, the evaluation score for ease of operation was well above the average of the group of best competitors. For your information, Kia’s Ceed was ahead of Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the AMS’s comparative test drive, and Hyundai’s i30 Fastback N was superior in many criteria, including cabin space and driving performance, than the mini Clubman JCW.

Sales of Hyundai and Kia in Germany and Europe between 2018 and 2020. This year, when sales slowed down due to the Corona 19, the rebound has begun since June

Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia have been steadily growing in Europe. It sold a total of 1,036,709 units in 2018, surpassing the 1 million markup in annual sales for the first time in 41 years since its debut in Europe, breaking the record of 1,065,859 units in 2019. This year, sales have been rising since June, though declined again due to the Corona19. Hyundai and Kia sold 353,026 cars in the first two quarters this year, taking 6.9 percent of the market share, the highest since they came to Europe.

The reason why we should pay attention to the growth of Hyundai and Kia Motors is because of the slowdown in the European auto industry and the increasing burden on manufacturers due to stricter emission regulations. Under these circumstances, Hyundai and Kia are actively responding to the market by building a variety of product lineups that are eco-friendly, SUVs, and high-performing.