Hyundai: Corporate History

Written by Phin Upham

In 1947, Chung Ju-Yung founded an engineering and construction company he called “Hyundai.” It took twenty years for Ju-Yung to go beyond construction and into motorcars, releasing his first in partnership with Ford in 1968. But Hyundai wasn’t satisfied with resting his company laurels on this joint venture.

He hired George Turnbull along with five other top British automotive engineers. They designed and built the Pony, a small 4-door sedan that used rear-wheel drive to get around. The first exports went to Ecuador, then to Benelux.

Hyundai brought the Pony to Canada in 1984, but the vehicle couldn’t pass the strict emissions standards set by America. The Pony quickly became the top selling car in Canada, and Hyundai rolled its one millionth car off the assembly line in 1985.

A year later, Hyundai brought the Excel to the United States. Fortune called it the tenth best product of the year, owed almost entirely to its affordability. The Sonata, a line that continues today, went into production in 1988. By ’91, the company had developed a proprietary gasoline engine it called the Alpha. It also built its own transmission, which helped to create technological independence for Hyundai.

An Indian division began production in 1996, but the big break came in 2004 when J.D. Power named Hyundai the second best brand in initial quality. Hyundai also gained significant market share after its sponsorship of the 2002 World Cup, a deal which still continues today.


Phin Upham

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.

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