This past week, Hyundai brought me and a bunch of other auto journalists to a fancy, wood-slathered resort in San Diego to show off some of the new cars they've been building like the Veloster Turbo. As you'd expect, they did lots of feeding of us hungry, hungry writers. I took advantage of the opportunity with the Hyundai insiders to ask the questions and give the suggestions I know you would, if you had the opportunity. You'll thank me one day, I'm sure. With a hug and a tepid beer.
Here's how it went down.
The idea: Hyundai got its start back in the late '60s building Ford Cortinas under license. Those were some handsome cars! How about you guys dragging those old body dies out of storage (I totally know you still have them. Check behind the break room in one of your shipyards, under a tarp) and making some new Cortinas, with modern drivetrains! Or, at least producing new Cortina bodies for people to build cars on their own with, like Ford does with the '66 Broncos and '65 Mustangs.
The response: Polite smiles, acknowledgement that Hyundai did indeed start by building Cortinas, but there are no plans to do anything with those. They're not even sure they could, license-wise. They also started whispering amongst themselves a bit, and one guy faked a cell phone call and walked off. He didn't even bother to hold the right side of his iPhone to his face.
The idea:One of the Veloster development guys told me that when they were coming up with the Veloster concept, they had a number of ideas they were playing with. One of the ones that didn't make it was the "open/fun" concept, which he said was at least in part inspired by the Suzuki Samauri (though most everyone else denied that part). Open/fun seems like a pretty great place to start for a fun car. More than a convertible, closer to a Jeep, but a bit less serious. The Samuri, for all its flaws, was often fun. So why not pick this back up? And I know just how— taking an existing car's basic chassis and structure and turning it into an open fun car has a long tradition. Think VW Thing, Citröen Mehari, and yes, the Trabant Tramp. Open bodies, removable doors, fabric roofs, waterproof interiors— hell, a good time on wheels. The veloster platform could easily become that! Remove the panoramic roof and replace it with rollable canvas/plastic, weatherproof interior, cut-down removable plastic doors— it'd be great! We can call it— let's see what's a synonym of Tramp... oh. Hm. Not that kind of tramp. Wait— Hobo! Everyone loves hobos, right?
The response: Maybe I should have left out the Trabant one, because they seemed to shut down after that. Most of the guys pretended like someone was gesturing to them and left, and of the few that were left, one shoved a huge handful of roast potatoes in my mouth, saying, "here, shut up and try the potatoes." It was like the size of a softball, and it was sort of tricky to breathe, what with his hand clamping my nose shut.
The idea: I've been really wanting a small pickup truck with room for people and a baby seat. Pretty much everything out on the market now is just too damn big for me. Luckily, Hyundai already makes a great option: the H100/Porter. It's a small but very usable cab-over pickup with an optional crew cab. It's extremely utilitarian-looking, which I like, as it reminds me of other no-bullshit-looking trucks I like. And, I love the cab-over/no hood look. On a pickup, a hood is just wasted space that could be part of the bed. So how about bringing some of those over? The double-cab with the back seat should get around the Chicken Tax, even!
The response: The blankest stare of undiluted incredulity I've ever seen on a human face. The product guy looked at me with this slight smile and very concerned eyes. Like he wasn't sure if I was joking, or if he should be genuinely worried. The more I tried to convince him I genuinely would drive a truck like that, happily, his reaction just got worse. A mix of disgust and confusion, like I asked him if they could put something in the new Genesis Coupé that would let the car molest children, automatically. I tried to get some of the journalists on my side, but to no avail. Eventually, after I showed him some pictures on my phone so he knew what I was talking about, he used the handle of his fork to make himself vomit all over my leg, then excused himself.
The idea: The Elantra Coupé doesn't make a lot of sense to me (review coming soon). It's sort of a sportier-looking version of the Elantra Sedan, but it's not really all that sporty, and someone who wants that would likely move to a Veloster. So what's the Coupé for? I think with any coupé, the point is just to show that the owner probably isn't married. The 70s used to have much better design shorthand for the freeloving, 2-door buying, man-or-woman on the go: vinyl roofs, opera windows, big absurd chrome work, with a flashy grill and ostentatious hood ornament, rich, luxuriant velour upholstery for gettin-it-on comfort, all that crap. How about that approach to the Elantra Coupé? No one else is trying it!
The response: The product guys at my table said the idea was so good, they wanted a special rep to hear it! Wow! The Special Rep came to the table— a huge guy packed into a suit like a bunch bowling balls in a pair of tights— and told me they wanted to take a meeting about my great ideas down the hall! He took me to a door, opened it, and flung me in, hard. It was dark, and I heard the door lock. Feeling around, it turned out to be a janitor's closet. I may have peed in the mop sink. About 4 hours later a maid let me out when people in the restaurant complained about the sobbing.