Designing a car is not an easy task. It requires tens of thousands of discreet parts, for starters. Automakers also need to take climate, road conditions, characteristics of each market, and regulations into their account. Besides, Europe is the birthplace of the automobile, where the automotive industry and driving culture have sprung. As such, it is difficult for non-European makers to thrive in Europe.
Europe, Where Consumers Prefer
As a non-European automaker itself, Hyundai and Kia did not do well in Europe at first. But now, things have changed. It has been almost 25 years since they established the Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Center in 1995 in Frankfurt, Germany. Hyundai and Kia’s annual sales in Europe now exceed 1 million vehicles, and the number is growing. It is safe to say this is such an extraordinary job that even Toyota could not do. We headed to the Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Center, the first fortress that Hyundai and Kia built in Europe.
The First Fortress: The Hyundai
Motor Europe Technical Center
Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Center in Rüsselsheim deals with the development of Hyundai and Kia cars. Its purpose is to make sure that every Hyundai and Kia which comes to Europe meets the demanding standards of the European customer and to adapt the car to the needs of that specific market. “The role we play is very important,” said Dr. Jae-woon Lee, the head of the center since January 2019, “because it is harder to achieve customer satisfaction in Europe, where most of the industry-leading manufacturers thrive with technological capacity and new tech breakthroughs are made every day by universities and research institutes.” The new year’s goal is to enhance NVH, (noise, vibration, and harshness) while maintaining the R&H level similar to that of other European vehicles.
The organization has been growing constantly and its 300 employees and 20 resident staffs are responsible for developing future generations of vehicles for the whole European market. To create original images and concepts, local trends and consumer lifestyles within the EU are studied in the center. Moreover, they are realizing intelligent vehicles by developing semiconductors, infotainment and control systems for vehicles by expanding research into electronic technology. Through cooperation with Namyang Institute, developing innovative technologies, that allow both great driving performance through power trains, virtual simulators as well as new technologies for future trends has become an important task for them.
Resident Staffs: Between the
Hyundai Motor Europe Technical
Center and Namyang Institute
Powertrain, Vehicle Test & Development, High-Performance Vehicle Development, Engineering Design, Electronics System Development, Product Planning, and Regulation, Vehicle Safety & Environment departments comprise the Europe Technical Center. Here’s what the resident staffs have to say.
The Powertrain division develops diesel, Turbo-GDI engines as well as mild Hybrid concepts and dual-clutch transmission for the European market. For inventing and investigating advanced technologies they are using highly sophisticated test facilities with test benches for vehicle, engine, transmission and injection components. The 48-Volt mild-hybrid technology unveiled back in April is one of their works. With the additional 48V mild-hybrid powertrain for its best-selling model in Europe, Hyundai is further expanding its electrification strategy to make clean technologies accessible for even more customers. Thanks to the 48V mild-hybrid system, customers benefit from a good trade-off between purchase cost and reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
This highly efficient system has been developed at other automakers for this reason” said Hyunil Park from the Powertrain team. The development of the Hyundai specific control algorithm and software functions goes in line with enhanced simulation tools like rapid prototyping.
Hyunil Park said, “The CO2 regulations in Europe are getting stronger than ever”. The 1 kWh 48V lithium-ion battery, which supplies the 48v mild-hybrid system with electric energy, is the key element of the system. As a result, CO2 emissions, as well as fuel consumption, can be reduced by over 10 percent. Technologies for eco-friendliness such as GPF(Gasoline Particle Filter), cylinders and injectors for less fine dust particles, and ECU Mapping are also being developed at the Europe Technical Center.
They concentrate on the development of innovative Infotainment and Active Safety/Advanced Driver Assistant Systems (ADAS). Due to strong customer demand towards connectivity, Infotainment became an essential part of their vehicles. Their specific challenge is the integration of complex functions and technologies into a simple to use automotive environment. “Through cooperation with Namyang Institute, we are continuously challenging new technologies for the development of customer-oriented and European specific Human Machine Interface (HMI) concepts,” said Jaehee Kim from the Electronics System Development team. “Our goal is to provide the best possible customer driving support without violation of any regulation in Europe”, he said. Among the future HMI concept are the Head-up Display(HUD) unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the Virtual Cockpit revealed back in April. Other concepts such as a Concave surface tempered glass touchpad for smooth handwriting and screen enlargement are also under development with Namyang Institute.
“European consumers prefer vehicles with high-tech capabilities so much when they buy their new car, such as ADAS or navigation system, so adapting our infotainment system to European countries is essential,” said Jaehee Kim. “Europe is a continent with about 50 countries using 17 different languages, including English, Spanish, German, and French. We also need to consider each country’s driving regulation for the ADAS.”
The Product Planning team is responsible for the strategic direction and the planning of all the product line-up of Hyundai and KIA in Europe. The team develops strategies and product proposals for future vehicles, powertrains, and technologies. Product proposals include body type descriptions, door concepts, design characteristics, detailed packaging overviews, powertrain line-up, technical features as well as innovations.
“The standard here is very high,” said Jaesung Choi from the Product Planning team. “Now we sell more cars than Toyota and Honda combined, and we think the main reason is due to product adaptation. We polished our brand-new HMI technology, as well as elegant design and high-quality interior for European consumers.”
The popularity of Hyundai and Kia in Europe is reflections of the hard work of these engineers at the Europe Technical Center. It was the focus on driving performance, eco-friendly powertrains, and localization that captured the hearts of the European consumers. The sales in Europe exceeding 1 million vehicles would be living proof.