Economy, Auto

Hyundai: No Fear of Apple, Google

Hyundai: No Fear of Apple, GoogleHyundai: No Fear of Apple, Google

Hyundai Motor Group’s global R&D chief seems unruffled by the industry hubbub over new mobility.

Vice Chairman Yang Woong-chul said Google won’t challenge old-school metal-benders by trying to make cars.

Yang generally thinks the surest strategy is for Hyundai to work with its current suppliers to develop next-gen technologies.

“We do it all ourselves, in partnering with some component suppliers,” he said in an interview this month at Hyundai Motor Group’s Namyang R&D center here south of Seoul.

“We have pretty good technologies.”

Yang’s frank assessment of the dawn of new mobility underscores an old-school ethic at Hyundai that prioritizes self-reliance over partnerships.

In an era of industry consolidation, driven largely by a need to share spiraling development costs for alternative powertrains, autonomous driving technologies and advanced safety systems, Hyundai stands out for its stalwart insistence on tackling such challenges in-house.

“We have seen that with many other companies, alliances have seen more failures than success,” Yang said, noting that Hyundai also has no intention of pairing with a rival to develop hydrogen fuel cells, as many competing carmakers have done.

The world’s No. 5 auto manufacturer takes a skeptical view of potential interlopers from Silicon Valley at a time when competitors from Detroit to Wolfsburg are struggling to come to grips with the unfolding landscape.

“Google is not a threat. They have announced they are not going to produce any vehicles,” Yang said. “All the media are saying Google is producing a vehicle. But they’ve announced they are not a car company.”

  And Apple?

“Not really worried,” Yang said. “Vehicle manufacturing is not that simple.”

Added Yang: “They have some chance to develop an electric vehicle. But they are more cautious. Rather than playing the media, or publicizing such things, the company is doing things more secretly before they have something to show.”

Ride hailing and car sharing are on the radar, but Hyundai is still reading the winds. Neither business model has gained much traction in the home market of South Korea.

Yang said Hyundai Motor Group’s biggest markets are overseas in places such as the United States and China, and that’s where it will have to join the game.

“We cannot be completely away from those kinds of new mobility businesses,” Yang said. “We are certainly trying to get into those kinds of things.”

But if Hyundai partners with a new player, Yang said, it will do so on its own terms.

“But ‘Hyundai, powered by Google?’ Do you think that’s a good idea?” Yang asked. “Google wants that. Google will be taking more advantage out of that than automotive companies.”