Hyundai History: How Hyundai Became The Largest South Korean Carmaker

by Vivaan Khatri | 08/12/2020
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Hyundai is among the largest car makers in the world. How a small car brand coming from a country without a rich automotive history could get to where it is now? Read to know the history of Hyundai.

Hyundai is a famous multinational automotive manufacturer. It is currently the third-largest car brand in the world after Toyota and Volkswagen. Being on the front line of the automotive market, the Hyundai has contributed greatly to the innovation and development of the car industry in both manufacturing and design aspect.


Before becoming a multinational giant of the automotive industry, Hyundai has gone through a long journey from a small business in South Korea. Let’s explore the interesting Hyundai car history.

Earlier Stage 

Chung JuYung was the founding father of Hyundai’s empire. His entrepreneurship started in 1947 with Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company. At that time, he was aiming at developing a company that could help the country with the reconstruction after World War II. However, his plan did not work out as the Korean War broke out just shortly the launch of the company. It was not until the late 1960s did he make the second attempt with entrepreneurship. During his break from the business world, he worked at the Korean Ministry of Transportation. While he was working here, he was inspired to build an automotive business which later became Hyundai Motors that we know today.

First model – Hyundai Cortina: Conquer Domestic Market

Hyundai Motors was officially launched in 1968 with the introduction of the Cortina. The vehicle was developed in collaboration with the Ford Motor. The first model was manufactured at Ulsan plant. After receiving a considerable success with the first model, Chung Ju-Yung gained more confidence and courage to take the next steps of creating an independent car on his own.


Second model – Hyundai Pony: First success in the international market

With a goal to produce high-quality and mass-manufactured vehicles for the South Korean customers, he hired British executives and top engineers that had worked in the automotive industry. The next model produced by Toyota was the Pony. Launched in 1976, the car was the first mass-produced car in South Korea. The car was the result of a joined effort of an international team including British engineers and Italian car designer Giorgio Giugiaro. The engine was provided by the Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi. With the Pony, Hyundai made its first step in the international market. The company later exported Pony to Ecuador market, then South America, Europe and North America. Hyundai Pony was a huge success abroad. In 1984, the Hyundai Pony was exported to Canada and became the highest selling car in the country.


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Breaking into US market – Commitment to Quality

Along with expanding its influence in the international market, the South Korean car company also met some other difficulties. One of them was quality control. While Hyundai was widely favoured by the South Korean customers, the carmaker had a hard time seeking approval from foreign customers. This challenge led Hyundai to the realization that quality and excellence should be the focus of the company as well as the expansion in the long run.


With its strict commitment to quality, Hyundai gained a huge success in the international market. However, it was not until 1986 did the South Korean carmaker break into the US. Hyundai’s first vehicle in the US market was the Excel which was a revised version of the Pony. Hyundai had attempted to export the Pony to the US market earlier. However, since the car failed to meet the US emission standards, Hyundai had to delay its plan of penetrating into one of the biggest automotive markets in the world. The Excel came into two forms, 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback. The car was a big hit in the foreign market, commercially and critically.


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Hyundai entered the Indian market in 1996. The company has established a production plant in Chennai, India. In our market, Hyundai becomes the second-largest car manufacturer, just standing behind market-leading Maruti Suzuki. Hyundai cars’ are approved by Indian customers due to their high quality and new and innovative technologies.


Even though receiving a huge initial success in the global market, Hyundai was not fully satisfied. The South Korean car manufacturer had constantly improved the quality and raised the bar for its own products. Such motivation has helped Hyundai to become one of the leaders of the international automotive industry.


Hyundai has gone a long way from its humble beginning. Today, Hyundai is one of the largest car companies in the world. The South Korean car manufacturer will keep its first plant in Ulsa, which now has become the largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility in the world with the annual production capacity of 1.6 million units. Hyundai also runs a number of manufacturing facilities abroad. The company is selling cars in 193 countries with over 5000 dealerships and showrooms across the world.

Other businesses

Besides developing the Hyundai brand, Hyundai Motor Group also invested in other businesses. In 1998, Hyundai has acquired a majority of the Kia Motors, its major rivals in the home market. Hyundai has currently hold 33.88 per cent of shares of Kia. In 2000, Hyundai entered a strategic partnership with Daimler Chrysler. In 2004, DaimlerChrysler sold 10.5 per cent of its stake to Hyundai for $ 900 million.

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