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Are Hyundai And Kia Running Into Each Other?

By raccars Published

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We all know that Kia is Hyundai's budget brand, just as Skoda is the VW Group's budget brand and Dacia is Renault's budget brand. However, in some cases there is a danger of the cheaper brand diluting the parent company's product appeal. Customers start to wonder if it's worth paying extra for the more prestigious badge, when essentially the design and engineering work all comes from the same place - particularly as the quality of budget brands has so markedly improved in the last few years.

Hyundai and Kia have recently taken on a new development chief in Albert Biermann, who was previously in charge of engineering at BMW's M division. Part of his remit will be to develop Hyundai's new 'N' high performance, announced this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show. He has been explaining to the assembled automotive press that Hyundai has very clear plans to differentiate its separate brands and sub brands.

The parent company is campaigning Kia on its younger and sportier image, without sacrificing comfort and ride quality. The Kia brand also runs a GT line of sportier models. While not designed for the track, they are performance focussed and fit very nicely into the brand's current model line up.

While Hyundai has been developing its Kia budget brand to great effect in the UK and internationally, at the same time Hyundai's own image has been gradually moving upmarket, probably as part of the brand's organic growth but also as a deliberate policy to define the separate brands more clearly. Hyundai is focusing upon a more luxurious and mature image, chasing premium levels of style and driving dynamics. The current range is notably a step up in quality compared to previous Hyundais and is going down a treat with UK buyers.

However, Hyundai believes this arrangement leaves room in its line up for a new, performance focused sub brand, aiming to compete with the likes of Mercedes-AMG and BMW's M division. These will take track style entertainment to a far higher level than Kia's GT models and will take inspiration from Hyundai's World Rally Championship (WRC) experience. The cars will not be created by simply increasing the power output of existing Hyundai models, but will, instead, be designed as precision driving machines, with a focus upon handling and lightweight construction methods.

The brand also confirmed that it intends to make sure the 'N' division remains affordable and accessible for everyday use, without compromising track day fun. Biermann did also hint at the possibility of another, higher level performance series of all new models, whereas the 'N' badged Hyundais will be based upon the firm's existing line up, with a number of models available within the next five years. The family hatchback i30 is expected to be the first model to be given to the 'N' division, which should put it on a par, performance wise, with the Ford Focus ST and the Seat Leon Cupra. If this arrives sometime in 2017, expect to see an i20 N not too far behind it.

At Frankfurt this week, Hyundai has been building excitement for the upcoming 'N' series, with a 2025 Vision Gran Turismo concept, a hydrogen powered model with 872bhp, which will feature in the Gran Turismo game by PlayStation. This shows Hyundai aiming at a younger audience of future 'N' model owners.

Frankfurt has also seen Hyundai showcasing a new i20 based mini crossover called the i20 Active, higher and chunkier looking than the supermini. Already available in India, the i20 Active is along the lines of a Dacia Sandero but with a distinctly premium feel. While it's clearly more rugged than the original i20, it's very much an on rather than off roader.

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