During the last 20 years, Hyundai’s evolved from an automaker producing cheap, low-quality vehicles to a top-tier manufacturer with an expansive line-up of quality, stylish offerings appealing to a broad range of buyers.
However, the company’s evolution, which began under former Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Mong-Koo Chung, is clearly not complete, if newly inaugurated Chairman Euisun Chung’s latest thoughts on the new year and beyond are any indication.
Between his early thoughts and actions, Euisun Chung, the son of his predecessor in the chairman’s role, clearly seems set on ensuring the growth and expansion of the South Korean company. In a New Year’s message shared with workers worldwide, he expects the automaker to act as a catalyst with its products and technologies this year and beyond.
He wants the company to act as an agent for social change through its products, offering more eco-friendly vehicles and other forms of transportation to meet the goal of “safe and free mobility as well as a peaceful life,” he said.
In the near term, much of this will come from the company’s electrification efforts, led by its new E-GMP-based electric vehicles as well as an overall push for the company to be carbon neutral. That goal will come, in some measure, as it expands its hydrogen fuel-cell technology, specifically its HTWO division, for use in not only passenger cars, but also boats, trains and trucks as well.
The skateboard-like E-GMP will be the basis for many of the company’s electric vehicles going forward, particularly its new Ioniq EV sub-brand. The company’s plans call for it to sell 1 million EVs annually around the world by the middle of the decade. The new platform is to debut under the skin of the Ioniq 5, a production take on the sharply angled Hyundai 45 concept vehicle unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.
While the South Korean automaker has been calling for and showing some of its changes, Chung made it clear that 2021 should mark the beginning of a transformation. “We have to therefore think of 2021 as an inflection point for shaping our future growth and prepare ourselves to become the first mover in a new era,” Chung said.
Although the company has revealed a slew of concept versions of new “innovative mobility technologies” and it has also invested in new growth fields, most recently highlighted by its $1.1 billion acquisition of an 80% stake in U.S. robotics firm, Boston Dynamics. Growth tech is vine, but the first round of transformation is clearly going to focus on improving passenger vehicles. He wants to make them safer, more efficient and less impactful on the planet.
“With the launch of new vehicles based on the recently released electric vehicle platform, the E-GMP (Electric-Global Modular Platform), we plan to provide attractive eco-friendly mobility options that aptly reflect customers’ diverse tastes and needs at more reasonable prices,” he said regarding the Group’s vision to become a top-tier global eco-friendly brand.
“Furthermore, our hydrogen fuel cell technology, recognized as the world’s most advanced, will be expanded to diverse mobility and industrial sectors to help achieve carbon neutrality under the ‘HTWO (Hydrogen + Humanity)’ brand.”
Chung’s already noted he wants the company to be leading EV company on the planet – a lofty goal given there’s no shortage of challengers pushing the consensus leader, Tesla, such as Volkswagen, General Motors, Volvo and others. However, he also wants to expand that to fuel cells as well, where Toyota’s been leading the charge for nearly two decades, with Hyundai’s efforts not far behind.
Chung wasn’t stingy on details about the company’s long-term plans in the address to employees.
“We will realize the safest and most innovative mobility technology in the world by strengthening our autonomous driving, connectivity and software capabilities. We will continue to invest in new growth fields such as urban air mobility (UAM) and robotics to expand the realm of new mobility in the near future.”
He touched on its Motional Inc. joint venture with Aptiv, formerly Delphi, and the plan to begin Level 4 autonomous vehicle testing in Nevada in 2021. The company aims to partner with Lyft to launch its autonomous platform in 2023 in certain parts of the U.S.
A look at Hyundai’s future isn’t complete with a talk about flying cars, and he noted the group’s effort to develop viable urban air mobility products and technologies is “speeding up.” The company expects to introduce Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, for cargo using hybrid powertrains in 2026, Chung said, noting a fully electrified model will follow in 2028.
All of this new technology should work in concert with its internal and newly acquired robotics expertise, he noted. Hyundai Motor Group’s wearable robot technology and its industrial and logistics automation technology are expected to maximize synergies with Boston Dynamics’ innovative capabilities, he noted.
Robotics technology will also be applied to various mobility areas such as autonomous driving, UAM, and PBV (Purpose Built Vehicle) to help the Group establish a leading position. However, one overarching theme carried through all of these developmental plans: the customer.
“All of our goals and efforts must be customer-centric. The first step to customer happiness is to enable them to focus on their own lives through perfect quality of our products and services,” he said.