The company's design boss wants more separation.
It is an understatement to say the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata is eye-catching. The new Sonata should be a fierce competitor in the midsize sedan category, but Hyundai's corporate sibling Kia is hard at work on its new Optima sedan, which Kia says will make you say "wow." Hyundai, Kia, and the luxury Genesis brand have all penned up some stunning cars recently, but in an interview with Autocar, the chief of designer for all three brands said there needs to be more differentiation between the trio.
Luc Donckerwolke, design chief for the Korean auto group, said, "our core task is to differentiate the design philosophy of the three brands, not least because we have a big [around 70%] share in Korea. We need to differentiate each model, otherwise, the landscape is too homogeneous."
Hyundai and Kia cars will not only look different in their home market of Korea but also "by segment and by region," says Donckerwolke. "We will not have a global design language because otherwise it’s too rigid. [The alternative is] more work, but it’s more flexible." Donckerwolke added, "there will be some unifying themes, with varying treatments."
When we last spoke to Hyundai on the subject, we were told the company wants to focus on avoiding the "Russian doll" strategy, where all models look the same but in different size classes. Instead, Donckerwolke says the cars will be like "chess pieces, with a look that reveals its own charismatic character. For example, Kia used to be about the tiger nose grille, separate headlights, and the lower intake. Now it’s going to be more of a mask that will deliver sportiness and a presence.”
Kia's design head, Byungchul Juh, says his Kia cars will be "young, challenging and cool - cooler than before. There will be a distinct version of the tiger face for each segment, and we’ll keep the tiger nose grille. In principle, it’s the same, but there’s a different interpretation for each segment and more of a 3D feeling. We’re moving from a nose to a face.” Future Kia designs will be "bold, fresh and young”, Donckerwolke said. "The next Sportage is even bolder than the new Tucson,” he exclaimed.
Hyundai, on the other hand, will be "sexy, seductive and sensuous, sporty, eager and stylish”, said Donckerwolke. "Hyundai is good on value for money, but we need to add emotion.” As for Genesis, the luxury brand will be "haute couture,” Donckerwolke said comparing the brand to designer clothes. He also promised "a great new show car," meaning one of the stunning Genesis concept cars may finally be coming to production.