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Kia continues local chassis tuning, Hyundai doesn’t

Sister brands Kia & Hyundai choose different paths re valued local chassis tuning

30 Jul 2021

DESPITE the ongoing travel restrictions inflicted by the raging coronavirus pandemic, Kia Australia is ploughing on with its local ride and handling program, currently testing prototypes of its upcoming EV6 in Victoria and having just completed the NQ5 Sportage’s tune.


Unlike the EV6’s program which was forced to move south as the New South Wales lockdown beckoned, the new Sportage’s tune was honed entirely in Kia Australia’s native state and completed remotely, a process executives say was time consuming but worthy.


“Tuning our vehicles to suit Australian conditions is a huge factor in the satisfaction of our drivers and has contributed significantly to the growth in our overall sales,” Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said. 


“Localisation remains an important process for our product range, and despite the constraints posed by COVID, Graeme (Gambold) and the product planning team together with (head office) Namyang, have persevered to work around the obstacles to deliver an Australianised product to suit our roads and driving styles.”


Mr Gambold said that despite the travel restrictions and interrupted supply chains, the trial tested spring rates from all over the world and even resorted to air-freighting shock absorbers from Korea.


“As usual, our NQ5 Sportage tune will be unique compared to other regions,” he said.


“Due to COVID complications we’ve been forced to apply the tuning via a ‘correspondence process’ where we order shock absorber production samples in batches and air-freight them for testing, rather than having a dedicated damper engineer based here for the duration of the tune.”


For reference, engineers apparently settled on Mando shock absorbers featuring advanced valve technology similar to that of Kia’s large SUV, the Sorento.


While the suspension tune can be carried out remotely, the electric power steering tune can’t because the relevant – overseas-based – software engineer must be on site to make the necessary tweaks and changes.


At this stage then it seems the new Sportage will have to make do with the Korean domestic steering tune, however it won’t be alone in that boat with the current Carnival also making do with a locally-tuned suspension setup but native steering tune.


The Niro compact SUV is the only outsider within Kia Australia’s immediate or soon to be portfolio to not have been subjected to its local ride and handling program because it is well into its model lifecycle and due for replacement next year.


Product planning general manager Roland Rivero echoed Mr Meredith’s sentiments and said the local chassis tunes added “a lot of value to the product”.


“We see a lot of equity in it, and we don’t want to give up on that at all,” he said.


“The key for us is that we’ve got to keep trying as hard as we can … it doesn’t matter if we’re closed down or if we’re in lockdown or under COVID, we shouldn’t relinquish the things that have made us successful in the past.”


While Kia labours away making “the best of” the situation, its sister brand Hyundai has taken a more pragmatic approach in relying more heavily on the global chassis tunes available while international travel is all but impossible.


For the uninitiated, Hyundai’s latest-generation Tucson, Santa Fe, Palisade and Sonata all ride on global chassis tunes, most of which the local arm has been “extremely happy with”.


According to Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) corporate communications general manager Bill Thomas, the brand’s own local suspension program will resume once the coronavirus situation dies down.


“It’s largely a factor of COVID and the inability of Korean engineers to travel to Australia,” he said.


“That means we are unable to build dampers during the tune and carry out the normal tuning procedure.


“It’s an important program and the benefits are many and varied – our roads are unique and we have the full support of our parent company in Korea to tune our suspension to suit local conditions.”


There have been a few select exceptions though; the new i30 N, Kona N, i30 Sedan N and Genesis GV80 all underwent or are undergoing some form of local tuning on their adaptive damping systems.


“Our intention is to return to our tuning regime as soon as the world opens up and we are back to normal with travel,” Mr Thomas said.

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