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Hyundai Plans To Pulverize Its Sports Car Competitors

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All thanks to a certain Croatian company.

One of the auto industry's biggest surprises this month was the announcement that Hyundai and Kia inked a deal with Rimac to begin a technical partnership. The South Korean automaker wants to get into the all-electric sports car business and Rimac is currently the world leader in that realm. Porsche previously purchased a 10 percent stake in Rimac for its own interests. But it's the Hyundai-Kia deal that's particularly fascinating, partly because no one saw it coming. So what will the South Korean's upcoming EV sports car be like?

Automotive News Europe was told by Hyundai's head of European design, Thomas Beurkle, that this EV sports car will be a "game changer" for the automaker.

"You could say it is a marketing instrument on the outside but it's also a game changer on the inside," he said. "We have to speak to people who want to be advanced, who want to lead in terms of taste and style and also being less conventional," he added. "It will be a real challenge for the design department to work on this." An N brand midship sports car and a high-performance vehicle are both planned. Rimac itself has only designed and built two models, both hypercars.

Question is, will the high-performance model have a price similar to the Ford GT, for example? A $450,000 Hyundai? One of the key reasons why Hyundai Motor Company was attracted to Rimac was because of its know-how in battery weight reduction while still ensuring a normal driving range.

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"That's the big obstacle on performance EVs at the moment," said Tyrone Johnson, the former Ford Focus RS performance engineer who recently jumped ship to Hyundai. "Rimac is doing things are a bit novel with respect the amount of energy you can store and the mass of these vehicles. That's part of the reason for the cooperation," he said.

Hyundai is planning to have 44 electrified models, consisting of pure EVs, plug-ins, and hybrids, on sale by 2025 while Kia aims to have 19 by 2022. The sports cars being co-developed with Rimac will be the crown jewel. Question is, will the crown jewels be relatively affordable? Hopefully at least one of them will be.