HYUNDAI dealers could soon start selling sporty products, thanks to the maker’s involvement in the 2014 World Rally Championship.
Although the official line given is ‘there are no plans for a sporty, road-going version’ of the Hyundai i20 WRC car, the Korean firm could well introduce sporty versions to its product range to tempt performance car fans to the brand.
‘We have the technology to do it – and you cannot have a car competing in the WRC and have nothing to back it up with,’ Hyundai UK’s president and CEO, Tony Whitehorn, told Car Dealer.
‘But we want to see how WRC goes so this year so there are no plans for a sporty i20.’
However, the Korean firm’s involvement in the WRC is not just a whim, rather it’s the start of a new focus for the brand on adding passion and sportiness to its products.
Whitehorn agreed the Veloster’s success in promoting the sporty image of Hyundai is debatable, and that the WRC could point to new sporty models in the future.
‘We have got to be add emotion to the brand, so by just going into WRC – that’s pointless. We have got to feel this in our other products,’ said Whitehorn.
Hyundai was last in the world of top-flight, international rallying in 2003 with the Accent WRC – again for brand promotion. Next year Hyundai will field the i20 WRC to take on the multiple champions Citroen and its DS3 WRC, and new arrivals Volkswagen with its Polo WRC.
Both firms have sporty versions in their product ranges to link their cars with the world of rallying.’We have returned to the WRC because our product has moved upwards in terms of quality and style, but the brand hasn’t moved so quickly,’ Whitehorn told us.
’30 per cent of our owners buy a Hyundai on its style. We are very rational as a brand – we are known for quality and value for money – but what we need to do is to inject some emotion into the brand, some sex appeal. Last year we sold 74,500 cars in the UK; we’ll sell 75,000 cars this year – 2013 is all about consolidation and building brand awareness and emotion. And you get this by going into WRC.’