5 Questions For: Hyundai CEO John Krafcik

Fresh off of the Midwest press drive of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Elantra GT, and Elantra Coupe, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik stopped by the Automobile offices for a few minutes. We polled our Facebook fans and Twitter followers to figure out what you wanted us to ask him, and chose our favorite five. Here are the questions and answers:

Is Hyundai investigating or planning a premium brand, like Acura to Honda or Infiniti to Nissan?

“We actually thought about launching the Genesis that way, and putting them in their own showrooms, but we're not going to do standalone premium franchises because costs are so high. If you multiply 200 dealerships by a cost of $10-20 million per dealer to make a new space, it comes out to something like $5000 or $6000 that would have to be added to the price of the car. As far as our Equus ‘experience,’ our customers love it. If Equus were its own brand the satisfaction ratings with customer service would be number two, just behind Cadillac. But would we do it? Probably not.”

Now that the Fluidic Sculpture design language has taken off, what's its future? How are future models going to differentiate from each other?

“I think if you look at the progression from Sonata to Elantra to Azera, you can see the design mature over time. You'll see even more maturity with the new Santa Fe, and future cars will feature something we're internally calling Fluidic Precision, where the forms might be a little less extroverted. You'll see that with the next Sonata, the design of which has just been frozen.”

What's the timeframe for the Veloster Turbo? When will it go on sale/arrive at dealers?

“Right now, actually. The Veloster Turbo is shipping to dealers now, and I think we've had our first American sale. I know a few models have been sold in Canada. Likewise sales of the Elantra GT and Elantra Coupe started a couple of weeks ago.”

Will we see any future Hyundai models in these bodystyles?

  1. Premium Crossover: “Maybe”
  2. Convertible: "Probably Not"
  3. Minivan: “No”
    • “The whole market might be 600,000 units a year, and if we carve out 10 percent of that, that's what--60,000 units? And it's generally a North America-only platform. We just don't have the volume.”
  4. Pickup Truck: “Not any time soon”
    • “It's more difficult to make a small or mid-size pickup truck and boost your CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) numbers, thanks to some of the ways those numbers are calculated. But there's definitely a market for it.”
  5. All-wheel drive sedan or coupe: “Yes”
    • “We learned our lesson with snow-belt buyers and the first Genesis sedan, so the next-generation Genesis (which will be previewed in concept car form later this year) will have AWD capability.”
  6. BMW 3 Series-beater: “Probably”
    • “We're thinking about it with the next-generation Genesis Coupe, in trying to match the BMW 3 Series (or the 4 Series, in this case).”
  7. A convertible SUV. Santa Fe CrossCabriolet, maybe?
    • “I think we'll leave that segment to Nissan.”
Do you have any comment on the recent class-action lawsuit about the Elantra fuel economy? Would you consider marketing using the combined fuel economy rating instead?

“The lawsuit, as we see it, focuses on the fact that they thought we didn't fully disclose that 40 mpg was highway fuel economy. If you look at the way Ford marketed the Fiesta and Focus, Chevy marketed the Cruze Eco, Dodge is advertising its Dart -- we're all doing the same thing. We screen all of our advertisements to meet FTC regulations, and we feel we met the standard.”

“As far as combined numbers go, if you have a car with class-leading fuel economy, more product sales are arguably better for the environment, national fuel consumption, et cetera. And if you're out there showing the okay number while the other guy is showing the excellent numbers, you're going to lose sales, and it's going to be detrimental to the environment, dependence on foreign oil, et cetera. I just don't think it's socially responsible to advertise that way. It's a bold move, but I'm not sure it's the right move.”

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