Is Hyundai a serious F1 possibility?

KOREA's biggest car company Hyundai has ambitions to enter Formula 1 racing as part of its dream to become a world class automobile company. At the moment the company is a minnow in the automotive world, producing around 1.5m cars a year but its sales are increasing, despite the setbacks in the Asian economies in recent years. Last week the company announced that its first half sales for the year are up 10% compared to 2000 and only around half of the 800,000 cars sold went abroad, which suggests that there is considerable potential for boosting sales around the world.

To date Hyundai has been an impressive success story. Started in 1967 to assemble Ford cars for the Korean market, the company began building the Hyundai Pony in 1974 in a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors. Cheap labor in Korea and high quality workmanship enabled the company to undercut Japanese and western companies and the Pony, Stellar and Excel models all sold well. This success enabled the firm to invest in a different philosophy. The company opened its Namyang R&D Center and went on to build its first proprietary engine in 1991. The next step was a switch into a sportier and more luxurious range of cars with the launch of the Scoupe, the Elantra and the Accent. In order to advertise the cars the company made its first forays into international competition with victory on America's most famous hillclimb event Pike's Peak.

Since then the company has entered the World Rally Championship with the Accent WRC. The company has two cars being campaigned by Alister McRae and Kenneth Erickson and is now beginning to look at an even bigger sporting involvement. We hear from Korea that plans have been drawn up for a full Formula 1 standard test track and before the economic problems of 1998 and 1999 there were well-advanced plans for there to be a Korean GP. The conclusion therefore is that Hyundai should be watched closely in the years ahead as an assault on F1 should not be discounted.

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