Hyundai America CEO Talks Next-Gen Genesis, Fuel Cells, Audi, And The EPA

John Krafcik’s candidness is unrivaled. The head honcho of Hyundai Motor America stopped by Automobile Magazine’s editorial offices yesterday to shed a little light on the automaker’s future product and technology.

There will be a new Genesis sedan at NAIAS next year. The HCD-14 concept, currently on display at the Detroit auto show, is not the next Genesis sedan. The production car that debuts a year from now will be far more traditional and feel much more “German,” according to Krafcik. As we reported after our talk with the CEO this summer, the sedan will be available with all-wheel drive.

The Genesis coupe will get either a turbo V-6 or a V-8. The current Genesis coupe can’t fit a V-8 in its engine bay. Now Krafcik tells us that Hyundai is deciding between a naturally aspirated V-8 and a turbocharged V-6 for the next-generation coupe. The former might be a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, and the latter would probably be the 5.0-liter V-8 from the R-spec sedan.

A four-door coupe might be added to the Hyundai family. While the aforementioned HCD-14 concept isn’t the Genesis sedan that debuts next year, Krafcik says there is space in the premium product lineup for something with the design elements of the concept car, specifically its sweeping roof line.

There will be a modestly redesigned Equus at the New York auto show this spring. “Nothing huge but just keeping it fresh.” New instrument panel, some exterior tweaks.

We’ll see a new Sonata next year. “The car’s [styling is] done, and it looks great. I don’t know what else to say other than that, when you see it, you’ll say, ‘Ah, they’ve evolved it very nicely.’ ” While Krafcik didn’t say if the car would be any swoopier, he promises you’ll have no problem identifying it as a Sonata.

The automaker Hyundai looks up to most? Audi. When it comes to brand character, positioning, bravado, and focus on design, Krafcik believes that Hyundai is a lot like Audi. “The attitude and spirit of that company, just by chance, are very similar to ours,” says Krafcik. “Audi has been a challenger brand in the premium segment, while we have been a challenger brand in the mass-production segment.”

Hyundai plans to pursue fuel-cell technology. Hyundai won’t be entering the EV game anytime soon. “We’re all over fuel cell,” says Krafcik. “It seems, to us, more viable than EV over the long term. EVs seem like a stepping stone to fuel cells.” Hyundai hopes to be the first automaker with a mass-production fuel-cell car on the road and, like many automakers, has one in testing, a Tucson. “We’re looking at 2015.” All advances for Hyundai’s fuel cells are now being made in-house. “We’re developing our own fuel stack technology.”

Diesel engines, continuously variable transmissions, and stop-start are possible. Hyundai has four- and six-cylinder diesel engines, but American emission regulations make compression-ignition engines an expensive endeavor. Stop-start technology and continuously variable transmissions are more likely. While Hyundai previously looked into stop-start, the system tacked on only one mpg in the city, and Krafcik says it wasn’t refined or smooth enough for consumers. What about transmissions? “I think we’re going to have another look at CVT,” says Krafcik. “We think Honda did a great job on the Accord with its CVT.”

The EPA has solid fuel economy test numbers, and [no third party tester] is better than Consumer Reports. Krafcik says that blowback from the fuel-economy fiasco late last year hasn’t been too bad. Quite the opposite, actually. “The primary message we’re hearing from consumers is, ‘Wow, we can’t believe you guys are doing this much to make it right.’ I’m not kidding.” He continued by praising the EPA and Consumer Reports, declaring them the only two credible sources for fuel economy information. "A lot of people have criticized the EPA test but I've spent a lot of time looking at it and it's a damn good test."

On Consumer Reports: “They’re damn good. No one is better in the industry.” Hyundai recently compared EPA and Consumer Reports combined fuel economy numbers for every automotive brand. “We found that no major brand had a better correlation between the EPA combined and Consumer Reports combined than Hyundai,” says Krafcik. “Honda was tied with us.”

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