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Wagons first at Hyundai

Reversing order: The Hyundai i40 sedan was designed after the Tourer wagon variant.

Hyundai makes wagon priority in medium car designs

18 Oct 2011

HYUNDAI’S European design team has reversed convention by designing a station wagon first, and then spinning off a sedan.

The approach was applied to the German-designed i40 Tourer that is now on sale in Europe and Australia, and the derivative i40 sedan – revealed at the Barcelona motor show in May – that is under consideration for Australia.

Hyundai Motor Europe chief designer Thomas Burkle said the approach, which he believed was is a world first, was as a result of his time at BMW design when he thought the industry convention of building the 3 Series Touring as a derivative of the 3-Series sedan compromised the wagon.

Mr Burkle told GoAuto: “When we developed the i40 Tourer I said to management that from my experience at BMW … the 3-Series Touring is a compromise of the sedan.”

Mr Burkle said that in the medium-car market in Europe, wagons accounted for only 15 per cent of sales.

But where a company sold both sedans and wagons on the same platform (the VW Passat, for example) the wagon took a bigger share, he said.

 center imageLeft: Hyundai Motor Europe chief designer Thomas Burkle.

“So I said to management ‘why don’t we develop the Tourer first so we don’t have a sedan with an added on rear compartment’?” he said.

“If you look at the silhouette of the car it is very important to get a harmonious silhouette.

“So the sedan and the tourer share the same roof silhouette until the B pillar and from the B pillar on the roof is different. So that means if you design the sedan first, the roof is already turning downwards where the B Pillar is and then, if you have to make a station wagon, you end too low. You need a certain height. So that means you have to bend back the roof and that disturbs the silhouette.”

Mr Burkle said the Tourer was also chosen as the primary entry into the European medium luxury segment was to allow the i40 Tourer to make a different statement from the Sonata which was not a success in Europe“The Tourer (wagon) buyer has a bit more open-minded mentality whereas the sedan buyer is far more brand and badge oriented, more classical. So we (want to) conquer the market first with the Tourer and then with the sedan.

“So the company followed that strategy which turned things upside down from the development point of view. And, if we do a new process and we are successful, we will follow up on it,” he said.

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