Hyundai Readies New Models, Products For 2012

General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota are battling for world supremacy with each automaker promising to build at least 10 million cars annually in a quest to become number one. No manufacturer has hit that production threshold yet although GM has come closest several times. In a distant fourth place is the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, consisting of Ex8 the two largest Korean car manufacturers. Hyundai Kia may be in fourth place, but it is gaining on its rivals and may some day become the top-selling car manufacturer in the world.

Read on for some auto trends that could put Hyundai and Kia over the top:

Efficient production — While other automakers are closing plants, Hyundai is carefully opening new plants in markets where it can best enjoy maximum efficiency. New plants have come on line in Russia and in the Czech Republic, and Hyundai is adding a third shift to its U.S. plant in Alabama. Rather than have too much capacity, the automaker is holding down costs by maximizing production at its existing plants. Cost containment is the heart of Hyundai management as its cars are routinely 5 percent cheaper and offer more standard content for better overall value.

Shared platforms — Though technically separate, Hyundai and Kia are joined at the hip as Hyundai has a 38 percent stake in Kia. The companies operate some plants separately, but share platforms wherever needed, saving each company money. The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are examples of vehicles that share engines and transmissions, with turbocharged models also available. Look for even closer collaboration between the two in the years to come with near total integration completed within the next five years. Hyundai will be remade as a premium brand in the U.S. and Kia will become its standard bearer.

Expanded model lines — Hyundai in Europe is quite different from the Hyundai in the United States and in Canada. In Europe, the automaker has had success with its i40 line, what is called the Sonata in the U.S. In Europe, this car is sold as a sedan and a wagon, the latter body style expected to arrive in North America by 2014. It may be joined by a coupe with a convertible model also sold. Look for Hyundai to maximize its product lines by bringing to the market new models with its Hexa space interior featured. Hexa features unique rear doors that lift and slide back for ease of rear seat access.

Electric vehicles — Hyundai typically follows the market leaders by waiting to bring innovative vehicles to the market after the others have tested the waters. In 2011, we saw the first turbocharged models. By 2015, Hyundai will sell an electric vehicle, likely one that is based on its I-oniq concept. That car is just 14 feet long features a coupe design, seats four and includes a rear hatchback. It will include a lightweight lithium polymer battery, just the sort of battery system that offers a longer range and a lower production cost.

Fuel cells — Hyundai has a wild card up its sleeve and that is its secretive fuel cell technology program. While Toyota, GM, BMW and some others have promised to bring production hydrogen cars to the market beginning in 2015, Hyundai has quietly been working on its own cars. Prototypes of its iX35 SUV have been tested in Korea and in Europe, vehicles offering a 350-mile range. The prototypes fall far short of expectations and will likely yield a more modern vehicle with improved engineering thanks to Hyundai’s partnership with the United Technologies Corporation.