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Hyundai Taking New Bold Design Strategy

Design / 15 Comments

Hyundai sees the Venue as the first step in creating more unique designs.

Hyundai has been on a roll lately, launching the Palisade SUV in Los Angeles, the new Sonata in South Korea, and the all-new Venue CUV at the New York Auto Show. Each model has debuted sporting unique styling, and we caught up in New York with Mike O'Brien, VP of Corporate Communications for Hyundai, to talk about Hyundai's new design direction.

Many automakers have taken a "Russian doll" strategy to design, such as Mercedes, and while this can create a sense of cohesion across the lineup, it can also dilute the power of flagship models and confuse buyers. Instead, O'Brien explained that Hyundai will take a "chess piece" approach. "The idea is that we want to have a couple of iconic characteristics that carry across but yet have a unique design identity for each product." This diversification of design will allegedly happen on both the sedan and the CUV side of their lineup, with O'Brien describing the Venue as "the first step there" due to its "distinctive side profile signature."

O'Brien also discussed how the brand's focus on design has meant the elimination of a coupe from their lineup. The company learned this lesson as a result of the swoopy fifth generation Elantra, which came as a coupe in the 2013 and 2014 model years. O'Brien revealed that while "in the old days, a coupe derivative of a sedan product worked pretty well because the sedans weren't that good looking," when they had a sedan that had a specific focus on design, like the Elantra, desire for the couple abated. "If we're going to focus on better design, it reduces the opportunity for coupes," explained O'Brien. Most people prefer the versatility and practicality of a sedan if it can match the looks of a coupe, and Hyundai believes that their sedan lineup has the looks.

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Lastly, with Volkswagen bringing the Tarok Concept to New York to test the waters for a small pickup truck, we checked back in on the Hyunda Santa Cruz. While O'Brien wouldn't reveal anything about whether the Santa Cruz is finally on its way or in what form it would arrive, he mentioned that it is still "the most active name in the blog space for Hyundai products." Additionally, with the concept originally shown way back in 2015, "the design ethic has moved since that time." We expect that if it surfaces, the Santa Cruz will bear a fresh, unique design, becoming another of Hyundai's "chess pieces."