Hyundai is set to become the latest automaker to introduce a new performance-focused sub-brand.
The new Hyundai N sub-brand will make its debut during the Frankfurt Motor Show next month as the Korean maker lifts the covers off a modified version of its compact i20 model set to compete in the World Rally Car program. Another hint of what’s to come will show up in digital form as part of the popular Gran Turismo videogame.
Hyundai insiders tell TheDetroitBureau.com they would “not be surprised” if the N line eventually comes to the U.S. market, but they said there are no immediate plans, and nothing is likely to be shown at the two big American auto shows in Los Angeles or Detroit in the coming months.
“The N builds on not just Hyundai Motor’s continued advancement as a primary competitor in World Rally Championship (WRC) but also on the company’s dedication and investment to create striking and pioneering high performance cars,” said an advance statement from Hyundai announcing plans to reveal the new sub-brand in Frankfurt.
Ironically, at a time when government mandates for improved fuel-economy and reduced emissions are ramping up, performance is enjoying a new golden era. And a growing number of manufacturers have been launching performance sub-brands, from Fiat Chrysler’s SRT line to the vaunted BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG.
Long known for building inexpensive, boring and traditionally low-performance models, Hyundai has been pushing hard to shift its image. It has made a major shift in styling that now positions it as a design leader. It has entered new segments, including luxury, with products meant to be more passionate and exciting. And boosting performance could further shift its image, industry analysts suggest.
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How far Hyundai will take things remains to be seen. Some makers have limited their performance push to specific models while others, like BMW, offer high-power options on virtually every model in their line-up.
Hyundai’s Frankfurt Motor Show news conference will see it debut the New Generation i20 WRC “to demonstrate Hyundai Motor’s performance ambition,” the maker noted. The i20 WRC will make its debut at the start of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship series at Rallye Monte Carlo.
Also set to appear in Frankfurt is the Hyundai RM15 concept car, “suggesting how the Hyundai N driver-focused technologies could come into production.” The RM15 features a 2.0-liter, 296-horsepower mid-mounted engine. The maker has not yet indicated whether there are production plans for the concept.
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Following the September 15th news conference, Hyundai will release what it is describing as its “ultimate concept car,” in the form of the Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo. Fans will be able to plug it in and take a virtual drive through the popular Sony Playstation videogame.
“Through this new concept, Hyundai Motor is engaging further with its fans and the online community by making Hyundai’s passion and performance accessible to millions of people around the world,” said the maker’s statement.
Asked whether we will see Hyundai N models come to the States, a well-placed source, asking not to be identified, said, “Don’t be surprised if, down the road, you see some N here.” But no specific timing or detailed model plans have yet been worked out for the American market.
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