By on December 10, 2011

Hyundai has a new and extremely successful spokesman. He is well-known, he can speak about cars with more authority than a football player. Best of all: He works pro bono. It is Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn. With a low-cost video, Winterkorn catapulted Hyundai’s image to formerly unknown heights.

The German magazine Wirtschaftswoche reports that the image of Hyundai took a leap a few days after Martin Winterkorn walked over to the Hyundai stand at the Frankfurt motor show and praised the non-rattling steering column.The candid camera video went viral on Youtube. Says Wirtschaftswoche:

“In the days after the show, the image of Hyundai improved considerably. In the beginning of September, its brandindex score was at -25. A few days later, it climbed to -14, at least for a while. The brand still remains a bit weakly positioned, however, it is interesting that the brand score improved especially in the eyes of internet-savvy social media users.”

The measurements are by and refer to the German market only. We have not seen the study.  Still, Winterkorn’s handlers haven’t learned. You’d think they are watching his back for people with cameras. No, they don’t. At the Tokyo Motor Show, I (video wall, blue shirt next to potted plant, face covered by camera) sat right behind Winterkorn, with recording devices at the ready. I overheard nothing of interest .

There were no cars of the competition to talk about – it was at Volkswagen’s own show.

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17 Comments on “Hyundai’s New Spokesperson: Martin Winterkorn...”

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    How did that video get made, anyway?

  • avatar

    I don’t see a problem here. If he had gone into that car and taken a big dump on it I’d think a lot less of VW as a result, even if it actually was crap.

  • avatar

    This video has been kicking around for a while now but is still worth showing, especially now with the German brandindex score to give it some further context. My only question relates to the fact that only selected parts of the conversation are translated – why not subtitle the whole lot? My schoolboy-German is pretty bad, so what is Winterkorn saying as he feels the headlining and rubs the a-pillar trim? Maybe he’s complementing it, but I suspect not. What’s he saying as he sizes up the dashboard? I know that the purpose of the video is to highlight the trumping of VAG with the non-rattling steering-column adjustment, but to know what else was said would also be illuminating.

    And yes I know that TTAC had no part in the subtitling of this video – mine is a rhetorical question aimed at those who posted the video in the first place.

    If nothing else, it’s an indication that the more mature players in the industry (eg. VAG and Toyota) ignore Hyundai at their peril. They don’t of course – Toyota has publically admitted that Hyundai is a tough competitor – but, as the German brandindex score showed, the public are yet to fully accept that the Koreans can turn out quality vehicles. They will soon, just as happened with the Japanese, and then it will be the turn of the Chinese to assume the position and climb up from the basement.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I think it was stated elsewhere that Bertel did the translation.

      • 0 avatar

        I haven’t seen that, Rob and doubt it, though I can’t 100% dismiss it either. It all looks a bit home-spun though, and I’m sure that Bertel wouldn’t let the quality slip-up at the end go through – ie. the final graphics stating that the next Frankfurt Motor Show will in 4 years time in ‘2005’… : )

      • 0 avatar

        VO: I listened intently to the audio, which is not very good. I even cleaned up the audio. I translated what I can make out. I have no problem understanding MK, I am at home in the dialect and the Wolfsburg lingo. But I refuse to translate what is intelligible.

        As for the 2005: I confess to that mistake. I find myself making them often recently. Probably I hate to admit that I’m getting old.

        I won’t fix it, sorry. Uploading gobs of MPEG via a slow line in China would take days. Actually, it would be impossible, because YouTube is blocked in China ….

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    yeah, but hos does it handle compared to the golf?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Still love that video. It always reminds me of the story about Lutz bringing a Hyundai to show GM executives to show that you could get quality pannel gaps without spending a fortune assembling a car.

  • avatar

    Winterkorn was wise to do what he did: it was a wakeup to Volkswagen to remind them that there’s always someone out there gunning for them. German arrogance needs to be kept in check and whether or not he intended it, the video demonstrates he takes the competition from Korea seriously.


    Now if he could just get VW to recognize that certain components need to last longer than 30, 50 or 80k on the clock (water pumps, control arms, PCVs and DVs), we’ll be in business…

    • 0 avatar


      My friend’s 18-month-old Golf just ate 3 wheel bearings at 40k miles (FL, FR, RR), to the tune of an $800 dealer-only repair. His long love affair with VW & the TDI is nearly over.

      • 0 avatar

        After my brother’s brand-new VW Eurovan fell apart- literally- starting from the first day he bought it, I would never buy a VW product… They would have to get a clean bill of health from Consumer Reports for at least five years… And don’t get me going about my son’s Jetta- “crap” is too nice a word for it! Quick question: why does Top Gear always say how wonderful VW Golfs and GTi’s are, and yet harps on the unreliability of Alfa Romeo? I mean, yeah, Alfa sucks in the reliability department… but (at least with the VW’s we get from Mexico) the Golf doesn’t seem much better… Are European VW’s better built? Or do Europeans have a higher tolerance for frequent, expensive repairs?

      • 0 avatar

        Update on the Golf wheel bearing story: The total was more like $1200, but the dealer paid for #3 bearing and gave him $400 in “VW Bucks” to apply to future dealer service or a new car. So he’s still out $800 cash, and can recover $400 of it only if he shops VW.

        How’s that for customer satisfaction?

      • 0 avatar

        4k miles out of warranty. Ouch. And I thought the Mk6 Golf (2010-present) was reliable according to Consumer Reports – and made in Germany to boot!

        How do three bearings fail at once?!

  • avatar

    This is one of my favorite videos of the year. It’s amazing that we get a first-hand “Oh, Snap!” moment when a major-league powerful decision maker at VW notices that his underlings have been pulling his femur in:re the difficulty (cost) in making things work correctly. “Hell, if Hyundai can do this, why the frack can’t we?!” Delicious on so many levels. Also, this is the best advertising Hyundai can’t buy. Too bad for them, scruples be damned, I’d make a commercial out of it.

  • avatar

    Similar nationalistic shadows haunt the divided here – North Korea and a former East Germany. Perhaps Winterkorn is sizing partnership, government backed and otherwise?

    After all if change does come to the North what better qualified country for South Korean industry to consult than Germany?

  • avatar

    Poor Bischoff :)

  • avatar

    I’d bet my 401K that the next-generation Golf has a smooth-as-butter steering wheel adjustment system and recessed windshield wipers.

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