RYAN BEENE

Hyundai high: It’s not state of Calif.; it’s a state of mind

Ryan Beene is a staff reporter for Automotive News.
LOS ANGELES -- I’m becoming more aware of the laid-back attitude of many in my new home on the West Coast vs. the more conservative vibe of many in my old home of metro Detroit.

This was reinforced during a recent visit to Hyundai Motor America’s headquarters near LA, where I got to chat briefly with CEO John Krafcik, marketing boss Chris Perry and top company PR men Chris Hosford, Jim Trainor and Miles Johnson.

First, the Detroit-LA contrast was highlighted via attire. There I was in a suit and necktie while some of the Hyundai guys were in jeans. This was pointed out to me via some friendly chiding upon my arrival, followed by an apology for not saying ahead of time that they’re a little more casual on Fridays.

Second, there was an undeniable chemistry among the Hyundai team and an atmosphere of optimism. Rarely was this the case among the auto suppliers I used to cover. Then again, the bulk of my time on the beat was during the most tumultuous time for suppliers in the sector’s history.

But it would be a mistake to chalk it up to 300-plus days of sunshine and some sort of attitude that exists only in California.

It’s likely due to the fact that Hyundai’s sales are up 25 percent through June vs. the same period last year, that its new and redesigned products are being well-received by consumers and that more (Sonata turbo, Equus, two-door coupe) is on the way.

They seem to be, for lack of a better phrase, having a good time.

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