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Aussie chassis tuners make Hyundai impact

High end: Hyundai Australia’s chassis development team expects to get its hands on the new Genesis coupe before it is launched in Australia.

Some overseas markets pick up Hyundai Australia’s chassis tweaks


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12 Nov 2013

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia’s reputation for chassis refinement is spreading, with at least four other markets taking one or more models with suspension and steering tweaks developed by the Australian branch’s product planning and engineering team.

Russia, China, South Africa and Malaysia are among the countries that now get Hyundai models such as the Elantra and Santa Fe with suspension tunings developed for the Australian environment by the small Sydney-based team led by Hyundai Australia product planning manager Andrew Tuitahi.

The team has run every new and facelifted Hyundai model through its chassis development program since 2011, drastically improving the ride and handling of models such as the i30, Accent and Santa Fe for Australian conditions and customer tastes.

Mr Tuitahi even expects to put the upcoming flagship Genesis coupe through its evaluation process, independently of the Hyundai Motor Company engineering.

He told GoAuto it was HMCA policy to ensure every new model was tailored for Australian roads.

But he said no development model for the Genesis coupe was yet available, so he could not say if it would need to be refined independently for Australia.

The latest model to get the chassis treatment is the facelifted ix35 small SUV that has just arrived on the market. The original was criticised for its ride, handling and steering characteristics when it was launched on the global chassis settings in Australia in 2010.

Sister company Kia successfully introduced a local chassis refinement program with solid results on vehicle such as Sportage and Rio, and Hyundai followed suit.

Mr Tuitahi, a former Toyota Australia product planner based in Sydney, takes a hands-on approach to the development process, personally testing the cars and helping to make calls on set-ups.

Engineering consultant David Potter – a chassis expert with experience with BMW on M3 development and race and rally cars with British company Prodrive – works on the technical aspects, employing data analysis programs he has developed over several years.

Australian Hyundai international rally star Chris Atkinson is also called in from time to time for advice on the finer points.

The Australian team then works with Korean engineering colleagues to develop the production dampers, springs, anti-roll bars and steering elements for Australia’s unique conditions.

Hyundai sales arms in other markets have been impressed, electing to take some of the local settings for their own models.

The Elantra sold in South Africa has adopted the Aussie suspension tune, while China has taken the main elements of the Australian Santa Fe large SUV set-up for its own, although with small changes to suit different engines sold there.

Without the benefit of a proving ground like other local companies such as Holden, Ford and Toyota, most of the Hyundai chassis development is done on an urban road loop in Sydney, with data recorded on a raft of machines fitted to test cars.

Hyundai Motor Company has moved to improve its chassis performance by building new engineering centre at Germany’s famous Nurburgring, but Mr Tuitahi says he believes there will still be a role for his team in “Australianising” Hyundai cars for this market.

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