Hyundai Passes Ford to Clinch World Number 4. Now What?

Glenn Arlt
by Glenn Arlt

For those of us who are pistonheads and think that the 21st century is going to be a clone of the 20th, this ought to be a wake-up call (along with the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, as well as the current inability of Toyota to make money in North America). Hyundai Group (which includes 50 percent owned Kia) is now the fourth largest automaker in the land. As in, all of the land/world. It just passed Ford Motor Company this month. With the upcoming major offensive by Hyundai and the ongoing downward spiral of General Messup, the only question remains: how long before Hyundai becomes number three in the world?

Meanwhile, Toyota and Volkswagen vie for the number one spot, with GM spirallying down down down in the inevitable slide started after their zenith in the early 1960s (since nothing lasts forever).

The highest card in Hyundai’s hand is their new upcoming Sonata codenamed “YF” which will be introduced as a 2011 car, and of course, manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama (as well as other places for the rest of the world). The car was styled at Hyundai’s Irvine, California, studios, though it is uncertain how much of the development work was done at their Ann Arbor, Michigan, engineering center. Which begs the question once again; what exactly is an “American” car any more?

This car is Hyundai’s biggest seller in North America, and it is the bread and butter of the line, competing with the heavy hitters of the industry, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu, among many others.

One thing that Hyundai are talking about is the upcoming Sonata Hybrid using new lithium polymer batteries. The technology is not cribbed from either Honda nor Toyota, but is to use Hyundai’s self-engineered six speed automatic transmission with a powerful motor-generator between the transaxle and the direct-injection four cylinder engine (which is soon to be about three generations ahead of the co-designed engines used by Chrysler and Mitsubishi and built in Dundee, Michigan, for Chrysler’s use).

The direct injection is going to be found in the conventional four cylinder Sonata, too—and for those Baruthian drivers out there who don’t mind powerful wrong-wheel-drive (FWD) cars, apparently a larger more powerful V6 will be optional, too, also fitted with the new six speed automatic.

As for the look of the new Sonata, I know that car styling is cyclical. Big glasshouses are out, slit windows and high beltlines are in; boxiness and lithe size are out, swooping long lines are in. It’s like the early 1970s redux (the 1971-1974 Dodge Charger two door hardtops being the “best”—or worst, depending upon your viewpoint—example of this styling in that prior era). The prior time this kind of styling was “in” was the late 1940s with the 1948-1954 Hudson Commodore, Wasp and Hornet being the “best/worst” example (but at least these cars had tons of interior room).

So, the new Sonata apes the current styling themes already seen in the Mercedes CLS and Volkswagen CC, the so-called “four door coupe’ styling” which simply indicates reduced visibility and less room for human beings.

What’s the opinion of the best & brightest of The Truth About Cars? Will the “YF” Sonata be a hit, or a flop? Will Hyundai knock on Toyota and Volkswagen’s door for #3 spot worldwide within 5 years or 10, or never?

And will Hyundai finally lose the “Rodney Dangerfield” syndrome of not ever seeming to get any respect from car guys and gals?

Glenn Arlt
Glenn Arlt

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  • Wsn Wsn on Aug 25, 2009
    ohsnapback : August 25th, 2009 at 11:16 am Most of that money has gone to recapitalize bank balance sheets (and continues to do so given their continuing loan losses and asset depreciation) and the fundamentals in the underlying economy continue to worsen. In other words, very little of the stimulus money is making into consumers’ hands. -------------------------------- You are correct, for now. But the banking sector and real estate will at some point recover and new growth will happen. At that time, maybe 5 years down the road, the huge amounts of paper money poured into the economy will multiply and we will see hyper-inflation. "Time delay" is the key word with the bursting of the old bubble, the bailout, and the future bubble.
  • Rockit Rockit on Aug 25, 2009
    In 2003, According to Consumer Reports, Hyundai’s reliability rankings tied Hondas. Hyundai’s reliability already same level with Honda 6 years ago. No buddy, your wrong. This particular example was a 90 days of ownership survey in 2002 that showed Hyundai closely matched Honda and Toyota. As far as I know they have not reached this high since, but for a fact Hyundai has not reached this high in LONG TERM reliability. As was stated before, 2003, 2004 Hyundai's show serious deterioration of major mechanical and structural components around 100,000kms.
  • Lou_BC Collective bargaining provides workers with the ability to counter a rather one-sided relationship. Let them exercise their democratic right to vote. I found it interesting that Conservative leaders were against unionization. The fear there stems from unions preferring left leaning political parties. Wouldn't a "populist" party favour unionization?
  • Jrhurren I enjoyed this
  • Jeff Corey, Thanks again for this series on the Eldorado.
  • AZFelix If I ever buy a GM product, this will be the one.
  • IBx1 Everyone in the working class (if you’re not in the obscenely wealthy capital class and you perform work for money you’re working class) should unionize.