Hyundai HCD-14 Reveals New Design Direction

From concept to production with next-gen Genesis.

by on Jan.14, 2013

The new Hyundai HCD-14 Concept will have a strong influence on the design of the next-gen Genesis sedan.

Few automotive brands have delivered more surprises than Hyundai.

At the Detroit Auto Show on Monday, the automaker once again threw out a concept that shakes up the establishment with the intention of taking its premium offerings to another level.

Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said that while its HCD-14 Genesis Concept is not the next version of the Genesis sedan, it is a “spiritual guide” for its future premium cars.

Hyundai used a cool movie-style clip highlighting some of the concept’s high-tech features including eye-tracking technology and hand-gesture controls for making phone calls, changing the temperature and choosing music.

“We think it’s once again time to defy convention and delight our premium customers,” Krafcik said.

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No one expected the Korean carmaker to so effectively move up-market with models like the original Genesis sedan and more recent Equus. And now, if the new Hyundai HCD-14 Concept debuting at the 2013 North American International Auto Show is any indication, the maker is going to offer an even more serious challenge to upscale competitors like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The HCD-14 concept is the first major effort by Hyundai's new advanced styling chief Chris Chapman.

Hyundai Chief Designer Chris Chapman said the car is more than just a platform for advanced interior controls. He said that the goal with the HCD-14 was to give luxury car buyers a deeper connection to their cars.

“We hit on the idea to make a car that is beautifully dangerous,” Chapman said.

Like the unique interior features, the design is meant to suggest the “notion of effortlessness.”

The Genesis Concept features eye-tracking abilities as well as hand-gesture controls, which Hyundai hopes will help reduce driver distractions.

Krafcik said the HCD-14′s advanced interior technologies are fully functional in the concept. He said the company is working on the next Genesis, a car it plans to show next year.

Hyundai has already made big waves with its premium products. Consider that Hyundai has achieved a 9% retail share of the U.S. luxury market – nearly double its overall hold in more mainstream segments, Krafcik noted.

“This success paves the way for a new generation of rear-wheel drive premium products,” the industry veteran suggests, adding that the “HCD-14 Genesis gives a hint of the design direction we’ll be taking, and an indication of the focus we’re placing on driving dynamics and technology.”

From a styling standpoint, the HCD-14 marks a significant break for Hyundai. While it has taken an aggressive approach in mainstream market segments, the maker has followed a much more conservative path upscale.  No longer.

The HCD-14 boasts rear-hinged doors and no center pillar - an approach that may be lost in production.

Its name signifying it’s the 14th show car to emerge from Hyundai’s advanced design center in Southern California, the HCD-14 is what one insider dubbed the “first signature car” developed by Chapman, the former BMW designer lured away by Hyundai last year to run the California design studio, known as HATCHI.

The name on the chromed, backlit door sill makes it clear this coupe-like sedan will serve as the inspiration for the next-generation Genesis sedan, which is due to reach market around mid-decade.  The long hood line, of course, makes it clear the next Genesis will maintain a rear-wheel-drive powertrain layout.

“We instilled HCD-14 Genesis with a premium-sport 4-door coupe road presence,” Chapman said. “Its sleek and lightweight silhouette does not punish the wind, but uses fluidic precision with dramatic surfacing that conveys natural restraint. Inside, a driver-centric cockpit prioritizes dramatic sculpture over infotainment button overload. Laminated and milled-wood detailing delivers a fresh, topographical map-like visual interest throughout the cabin-length center console.”

In case you're wondering.

Exactly how much of the show car will make it into production remains to be seen. The rear-hinged rear doors are a favorite with designers and show car fans but have proved to be a problem when it comes to translating into reality – all the more so when you’re looking at the lack of a pillar between front and rear doors.  That’s a serious challenge when it comes to meeting today’s tough crash standards.

And while electric door releases are out there on a few low-volume models – like the Chevrolet Corvette – it remains to be seen if Hyundai would find it worthwhile and effective to adapt that technology to something a bit more mainstream.

Hyundai bills the advanced telematics as “advanced 3-D gesture-based technology controls.” Might the maker allow a driver to change stations, adjust volume or operate other controls with a simple flick of the wrist?  It’s clear the industry, as a whole, is looking for the most effective way to operate today’s increasingly complex infotainment systems while limiting driver distraction.

The HCD-14 concept's LED headlamps.

Intriguingly, the concept vehicle uses optical recognition to identify the driver and initiate the starting sequence, Hyundai says.

The engine, incidentally, is the latest version of the Hyundai Tau 5.0-liter V-8.

While there’ll be plenty of eyes on the new take on Hyundai’s Fluidic Design strategy, there’s something else worth watching.  Krafcik is among the first to admit the maker’s Achilles Heel has been its driving dynamics, steering and suspension in particular.

The HCD-14 reportedly ushers in some significant under-the-skin updates, “an advanced complement of tarmac-gripping technologies,” the maker promises, starting with an ultra-rigid chassis, a new five-link front- and rear-suspension system, multi-mode power steering and a new electronic yaw control system.

Pleasing eyeballs is something Hyundai has already shown it can do.  Now, however, the HCD-14’s most serious challenge will be to satisfy serious drivers, as well.

Bryan Laviolette contributed to this report.

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