The head of Hyundai Australia public relations is confident the car maker’s upcoming first-ever ‘N‘ performance car will be exciting, but stresses that it needs to be for the sub-brand to work.
Speaking exclusively to CarAdvice at WRC’s Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour, Hyundai Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas said the company is confident its debut N car will be “the right kind of car” with legitimate performance.
“We think the N brand is something that can really lift the Hyundai brand and that’s what it’s designed to do,” Thomas said.
“It’s a little too early to talk about timings or details but N is definitely something that will be exciting [and] it kind of needs to be.
“If you’re going to build a sub-brand like this, it needs to start in the right way and I think you’ve only got one chance to do it right the first time.”
Announced back in 2013, Hyundai’s N sub-brand – named for its South Korean Namyang research and development centre – is aimed at building on its motorsport experience (largely in the World Rally Championship) by bringing “thrilling winding road fun to customers who love cars”, Hyundai says.
“We could be described as a ‘challenger’ brand,” Thomas said.
“We’re not right at the top in terms of volume and we don’t have a history of doing this kind of car. So it’s an important brand statement… but it also has to be a really excellent product, because we’re not going to get any leeway on it.
“It’s got to come out and, in my opinion, really make a proper statement as a performance car, not just as a brand builder.”
An i30-based N car is firmly expected to be one of the first examples of Hyundai’s plans for its high performance sub-brand, with a prototype being spotted testing near Germany’s Nurburgring in July, though no official confirmation has been offered.
“What we can say is that Australia is the biggest market in the world for i30, therefore we think that any i30-based N car is important to us and we’d like to think, in this case, it’s something that our parent company will listen to us about,” Thomas revealed.
“The form that it’ll take and the car that it will be based on is still a little bit too early to say, but I think we’ll be quite a big market, in global terms, for that car. And they do respond really well to us.”
Thomas agreed that the Australian market’s love of high performance brands and models – such as those from the AudiS/RS, BMW M, Mercedes-Benz AMG and Renault RS divisions – has some sway with Hyundai head office, “but the company has to look at it on a global basis as well.”
“It’s a really interesting program, it’s a really interesting idea to have the sub-brand. Watch this space.”