For some odd reason, Hyundai doesn't get the attention and fame that other car companies do in the United States. Ford, Chrysler, and GM dominate with their various cars and have had their shares of success and failures. Hyundai flies under the radar while having a lot to offer.
They’re very popular in Canada and Europe and their cars are known for being more reliable than the “Big Three’s” offering. The company is making major moves to embrace the EV market and have often been ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing technology to aid their vehicles.
The fact that the company is often ignored means there’s a lot about it even many automotive buffs may not know. There are parts of its history and how it’s achieved some things other companies haven't. There are touches on how their cars are produced and their one-of-a-kind facilities. In fact, Hyundai does things no other car company does but doesn’t get the press for it.
Here are 20 surprising things you may not know about Hyundai to prove why they’re among the best in car production today.
20 Steel Rolling
Every other car company has to buy its steel from production plants, which adds to the cost of some cars. Hyundai cuts out the middleman by rolling all its steel in South Korea. In fact, Hyundai Steel was founded in 1953 so it predates Hyundai Motors by 14 years.
Not only does this let Hyundai save money but it gives them an edge by dictating how the steel is produced so as to sculpt the cars more dynamically. By creating its own steel, Hyundai gets a major leg up on its competitors.
19 Rally Away
Sure, other car companies can boast about developing rally cars. But Hyundai can go all out by having their cars in actual rally competitions. The company had been involved in the World Rally Championship in the early 2000s but backed off to concentrate on production. In 2014, they made a big return as Hyundai Motorsport regularly sponsors its own vehicle into the WRC.
With great vehicles such as the i20 R5 and Veloster, Hyundai is making a major mark on the rally car sphere.
18 Solar Roof
Hyundai can have some interesting high-tech touches. Yet this has to stand out. The 2020 Sonata Hybrid (already available in Korea) will be the first car with a solar panel on its roof to help power the vehicle. To be fair, this isn’t a massive gamechanger as Jalopnik observed it will require the car being in direct sunlight for hours for any real effect. Yet it is a first in eco-friendly automobiles that can pave the way for other companies.
17 The Proving Ground
Car companies are known for having various testing centers. Hyundai operates an area known as the Proving Ground at an abandoned airbase in the Mojave desert. At this 4300 acre area, Hyundai can test their vehicles on several roads from paved to rocky and centers that mimic various weather conditions.
The tests can be brutal to the point that the grounds still have the remains of cars left behind since it opened in 2005. A larger center opened in South Korea but the original Proving Ground is one of the best all-purpose test centers in the world.
16 It Started in Construction
The backgrounds of some car companies can be surprising. Chung Ju-Yung, who knew the newly independent South Korea was in need of a construction company, started Hyundai in 1947. Thanks to key contracts for such landmarks as the Gyeongbu Expressway, Ju-Yung became the richest man in the country.
In 1967, he transformed the company into Hyundai Motors to begin its rise to power. The company has never forgotten its roots and still produces high-end construction machines to do its founder proud.
It doesn’t get the press it should but Hyundai does not “design” cars like other companies. Their official line is “fluidic sculpting” for their vehicles.
Their artists are inspired by nature from the curve of a wave to how a car will look in a forest setting. This makes Hyundai vehicles stand out from the pack with their frames and gives them a distinctive appearance. No other company takes the idea of “cars are artwork” like Hyundai does.
14 Blue Drive
The rise of hybrid and electric vehicles has pushed car companies to shift how they produce automobiles. Hyundai is leading the pack with its Blue Drive campaign. This intriguing plan has been implemented in models such as the Tucson and Sonata and utilizes cutting-edge batteries. In fact, the stated goal of the press release is to ultimately do away with fossil fuels.
The company has also developed a Blue City hybrid bus as one of the first EV public transport vehicles. They don’t get the buzz of the other companies but Hyundai is determined to lead the charge in electric cars.
13 Creates More Jobs in the U.S.
Several car companies (cough*GM*cough) are in hot water for cutting jobs in the United States. Hyundai is actually increasing work for auto employees. Their massive Montgomery, Alabama plant has just announced plans to expand, which will add hundreds of more jobs to their already sizable 3,000 workers.
It helps that Hyundai will be producing new models exclusively in the U.S. and is one company that is trying to expand their workforce rather than whittle it down.
12 Zombie Survival
In the world of The Walking Dead, cars aren’t as useful given that gasoline is scarce following a zombie apocalypse. Hyundai has helped sponsor the show with their cars used on screen.
In 2014, they put together a special version of the Tucson that was designed to survive in this world. It includes a “Zombie survival kit” of supplies, better tires, and a TV ad boasting various weapons. Those weapons are obviously not available commercially but it’s a good car in case the undead rise up.
11 They’ve Survived Some Serious Lemons
One of the most remarkable things about Hyundai is that they’ve survived making cars that should have put another manufacturer out of business. Their very first U.S. car, the Excel, was soon slammed for the many problems that made it sound like a disaster.
The Sonata is infamous for scores of issues and the 2008 Santa Fe was recalled eight times. The company has a knack for overcoming these problems with redeeming models yet amazing how many poor cars they’ve made.
10 They’re Huge in Europe
In the U.S., Hyundai lags behind Ford and GM in terms of recognition. In Europe, the manufacturer is a huge deal. Over 90 percent of the company’s sales come from European nations as their reliable fast cars appeal to the market there.
Fortune reports that they’re very big in the Netherlands and it helps that the company sponsored events such as FIFA and does more advertising there. The European market truly is the backbone of the company’s success.
9 Canada Before U.S.
Most car companies are well-established with ties in the United States that go back nearly a century. Hyundai did things differently.
After making a name for themselves in Asia and Europe, Hyundai tried to sell the Pony to the U.S. in 1984. However, the car didn’t pass the emissions tests of the time so Hyundai had to start selling in Canada first where it became a hit. It took until 1986 for the Excel to give Hyundai its first U.S. seller. The company is still a major force in Canada as the Great White North was their foothold in North America.
8 Using Lithium
The current wave of hybrid vehicles proves how car companies know this is the way of the future. Hyundai is ahead of the curve in regards to its use of lithium batteries. Most companies use the standard lithium-ion battery but (in cooperation with Kia), Hyundai was the first to utilize lithium polymer batteries in their electric vehicles.
By using polymer rather than liquid, these batteries are lighter and last longer which gives Hyundai a major push on the competition.
7 Hope on Wheels
Several car companies can talk about doing big work with charities. Hyundai puts their money where their mouth is with their Hope on Wheels campaign. For every vehicle sold, Hyundai donates some of the profits to fight pediatric cancer. The campaign also extends to helping people affected by disasters from hurricanes to wildfires.
Since it was created in 1998, the organization has raised over $160 million in donations and helped countless people to show the heart of Hyundai.
6 NFL Influence
Like other car companies, Hyundai has plenty of sports sponsorships. That includes the FIFA World Cup and various tennis opens. The company has long had deals with the NFL, which may come as a surprise as they don’t advertise on NFL games nearly as much as Ford or GM.
In fact, in mid-2019, the company ended its sponsorship with the main league but continued to be sponsors for several teams such as the Vikings and Eagles. They don’t have as much air time but Hyundai continues to be tied to football.
5 A Surprising Pioneer
The Excel was Hyundai’s first front-wheel drive car when it premiered in 1985. It sold well but was hit by slams of being cheap despite being a decent subcompact car. What few realized at the time was that a famous name was behind it.
The Excel was designed by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro. Yep, the same man who created the famous DeLorean helped craft this “beater” of a car, which makes it historic.
4 First With a Decade Warranty
Car owners today take long warranties for granted. So it can be forgotten that Hyundai was the first to offer a decade-long warranty on their cars. It was a bold move in the 1990s as the other companies seemed wary about extending coverage for so long. The Advantage deal covered the powertrain for ten years for what Hyundai called “a Decade of Dependability.” That’s customer care some other companies can’t quite touch.
3 The World’s Biggest Auto Plant
Every major car company can boast some big factories. However, only Hyundai can claim to own the single largest automobile plant on the planet.
Located in South Korea, the Uslan factory is practically a small city. It’s spread over an area of 1225 acres and comprised of five full independent plants with a staff of nearly 35,000 workers. According to the official reports, the factory produces a new car every 12 seconds for 5600 a day. While VW’s Wolfsburg plant has more size, it doesn’t produce nearly as well as Uslan does.
2 Fun with Fonts
Several car companies will have the labels for their models and brands that look much alike. Hyundai is different. Look closely and it becomes obvious every single model has a different font for the name.
A few are nicely stylized such as a sun image for the Santa Fe or a shine for the Equus. Hyundai’s design team goes out of their way to make each font distinctive to ensure every car model feels unique, which is a nice touch.
1 The Meaning of the Logo
At first glance, it would appear the company’s logo is nothing more than a stylized “H.” However, there’s a deeper meaning behind it.
The original concept was that it was a salesman and a satisfied customer shaking hands after a good deal. It’s also slanted toward the right to favor the customer as a sign of how Hyundai puts them first. It’s been stylized a few times but the logo is meant to emphasize how the company puts trust above all else.
Sources: Carlifenation.com, mydriftfun.com, autoguide.com