Detroit – Hyundai HCD-14 reminds us all of …….. nothing good to do with Hyundai

I have to say, Detroit 2013 is emerging as the most interesting Detroit show in years. It’s been a yawnfest since around 2008, mostly because America’s domestic car companies were up the creek with nary a paddle in sight. This year, there’s been interesting stuff with every third or fourth NAIAS post I read on the internet, which is a reasonable ratio.

Hyundai have just launched a concept that will form the basis of their design language for the next few months model years. It’s called the HCD-14 and it’s the bedrock upon which future Hyundai premium vehicles will be styled.

Hyundai HCD-14 at the Detroit Auto Show 2013
Hyundai HCD-14 at the Detroit Auto Show 2013

The press release features the usual PR guff, including a reference to liquid metal styling that’s kind-of believable from this 45 degree frontal shot, but if you see this vehicle side-on it looks more like Han-Solo-carbonite than the T-1000 from Terminator II.

What caught my eye, however, is the badge on the front. I’ve always thought that Hyundai’s standard leaning-H-in-a-circle looked quite poverty stricken so this was a pleasant upgrade at first glance. At second glance, it seemed like another typical Hyundai styling stunt – it’s very reminiscent of the Bentley flying-B from a distance, don’t you think?

Of course, Hyundai have skipped across the pond of automotive progress using a bunch of styling and design cues from different brands as lilypads along the way. Their stock in trade from the early 1990s right up medium_HyundaiMercedesMotiveuntil today has been to take identifiable styling cues from solid, established companies and reference them with as much subtlety as a sledgehammer.

Does this look like a pair of Mercedes to you? Maybe one model generation after the other?

It’s interesting to see that Hyundai’s willingness to copy cues from others continues and has extended right down to the smaller details. Take a closer look at the badge on this HCD-14 concept and Bentley isn’t the only company it might remind you of.


Aston Martin, anyone?

Want more? Here’s that first image of the HCD-14 once again. Remove the Bentley/Aston badge and put a four ringed badge in it’s place.

Am I convincing you yet?

Hyundai HCD-14 at the Detroit Auto Show 2013
Hyundai HCD-14 at the Detroit Auto Show 2013

This leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Hyundai have done a remarkable job in the last decade. They’ve transformed themselves from being makers of cheap cars into being makers of genuine value propositions with a reputation for reasonable comfort and quality. In essence, they’ve become the new Toyota (albeit without replacing the actual Toyota).

The 2+1 door Veloster Turbo was one of the most interesting cars of 2012 for me. It’s the first time a car with a Hyundai badge has crossed my radar in a totally positive way.

I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but the HCD-14 is a stark reminder that Hyundai still don’t have an identity of their own – something they genuinely need if they’re to take the next step and perhaps stay ahead of the Chinese companies that will be the new Hyundai in around half the time it took for Hyundai to become the new Toyota.

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  1. Hey Steve,

    I think Hyundai had a funny badge on the Genesis already – I definitely read about their reasoning behind this a few years back, but I can’t remember now. I think this is them trying to differentiate between lower and upper models, but, yeah, it’s not a great idea. I think Toyota do/did the same with the Crown, which might be something to do with it.

    That concept scream BMW to me. It seems every maker is struggling at the moment, all right. Volvo – my other favourite along with Saab – has been having similar identity problems. Even Merc with the latest E-Class facelift seems like they don’t know what’s going on! It’s amazing how quickly things go ‘out of date’ now…

    Everything is up in the air.

    1. Yeah, I looked over their current US vehicles and the leaning-H badge departs once you get to the premium/performance range. Hadn’t seen this one on any of them, though. Just thought it was interesting.

      I wish they’d take some genuine steps towards building a story for themselves. They’ve done everything else remarkably well.

    2. Yes Volvo has the hugest identity crisis in the word right now trying to go from a conservative box to interesting copying the design that the other swedish car manufacturer was all about. And now it seems that Subaru for some reason has taken the conservative ground that Volvo once ruled (in other countries than sweden). But then unlike Hundai Volvo has a real identity to have a crisis over. But i guess that wont help them much.

    1. PS. Anyone know of a reliable wireless keyboard that actually transports all the letters and number all the time?

  2. Being an American Aston-Martin wasn’t the first make that came to mind when I saw the winged Hyundai badge but rather Chrysler’s current badge instead. Either way it’s hardly distinctive.

    As I recall Hyundai allowed the public to vote between 2 grille designs for the Genesis sedan. The rejected one was more of a generic Hyundai grille using the stylized H.

    1. The leaning-H has got to go. It’ll happen sooner or later. Looks immature, like a company that just wanted something to put on there.

      1. leaning H is almost a blend between toyota and honda logos… which is exactly what they are trying to achieve in terms of a model for their business. So really it is the perfect logo for Hyundai! It is an ugly, cheap, and cheesy clone of a logo for sure… it captures the very essence of Huyndai perfectly!

        iirc, the old genesis had a winged logo knocking off aston martin, a window line knocking of the Saab AeroX… I’m sure there are more than a few other knockoff elements others might comment on… they borrow from everyone. To be honest, their newest line in production kind of sets their own design language (albeit conceptually borrowed from other cars, eg the BMWesque side folds, but better executed than past Hyndais)… I give them some credit for that… but this concept looks like a weakly styled Audi clone…

        beyond the looks, the thing that bugs me with hyundai is that it is all so superficial and people buy into it. The veneer is not all that thick, and underneath, they are value oriented cars lacking the solidity of BMW or Audi, or SAAB… little things (that matter a lot) like safety, rust resistance, etc are not really there… a “5 star safety” badge does not mean they are as safe as a Saab or Volvo… a 5 year old hyundai in the salt belt looks it! basically, these are disposable cars, and I don’t get why so many people don’t see past that veneer…

        if more of the population looked at qualities that matter past the 3 or 4 year lease, Saab would be still in business today… but they don’t, and my feeling is that if we continue in this vein, there won’t be many used cars worth buying in a decade or so… just a lot of overstyled, underbuilt, rusty contraptions full of deteriorating, obsolete electronic gadgets… how’s that for optimism re the industry! 🙂

  3. I was imagining a Cord that I overlooked the badge. This week we are looking at the “SAAB” logo as well and for me the grille has far more impact than a badge on the bonnet that people only notice when walking by in a parking lot. At the Saab Convention in Iowa last August there was a 2011 9-3 with the last run production grille with much larger “SAAB” and it was the best grille I had ever seen.

    Returning to the Hyundai badge it is a little Bentley, Aston Martin, Morgan and Lagonda (which is could be resurrected as Aston’s sedan.

    While looking for logos I found this attractive one for the English aircraft heritage car Bristol.

  4. This design is not only lacking identity, its a Audi with some asian style tweaks. But i guess Hundai is at the same point now as Toyota was at with this gorgeous thing
    But on the other hand Toyota/Lexus still don’t build cars with any kind of decent design. Instead of Lexus’es looking just like Merc’s they now look just like nothing at all.

    1. Not that imagine anyone cares much but i have to correct myself here. The new if350 f-sport looks like how a bmw 3 series would have looked like if the design team was on a mind altering drug while making the final touches on the clay model and some in the moment brilliant guy also thought -hey, why not also put a Audi grille on this? Its sad Toyota still cant come up with better than this. I guess they are the new GM?