Hyundai, seeking more performance cred, readies Nuerburgring test center
FRANKFURT -- Hyundai has begun construction of a vehicle test center at Germany's famous Nuerburgring race track as the automaker seeks to raise its profile in Europe.
The new facility, which will open in June, is being built at a cost of 5.5 million euros ($7.5 million) and will be used to test all vehicles designed for the European auto market, Hyundai said.
In a statement, Allan Rushforth, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor Europe, said the center represented a significant contribution to raising the perception of the Hyundai brand in the region.
''The new Hyundai test center at Nuerburgring is an expression of our intention to focus on improving the customer experience of our vehicles, such as ride and handling -- an important consideration for European drivers,'' he said.
Hyundai said the new facility will be used by engineers at the company's existing research and development center in Ruesselsheim, Germany, to help develop vehicles conceived especially for the European market such as the i30, ix35 and i40.
Hyundai and affiliate Kia have succeeded in defying the sustained slump in European auto sales that is troubling other mass-market carmakers. Affordable sticker prices, modern designs and long warranties have succeeded in attracting buyers in austerity-hit markets.
Last year, according to data from the industry organization ACEA, Hyundai sold 432,240 vehicles in EU and EFTA markets, a rise of 9.4 percent over the previous year. Kia sales rose 14.6 percent to 337,466, giving the two South Korean manufacturers a combined market share of 6.2 percent. By comparison, Europe's lowest-selling mass-market brand Fiat had a 4.6 percent share.
Toyota, the single best-selling Asian brand in Europe, has a share of 4.1 percent, while rival brands Nissan and Honda have 3.5 percent and 1.1 percent of the market respectively.
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