German native Axel Honisch's job is to incorporate the motoring taste of European consumers into Hyundai's predominantly Asian car concepts. The latest Hyundai Coupe is an example. 'The car is built on the new Elantra platform, but we optimized its sporty handling and the suspension settings were adapted for use on European roads,' said Honisch. Hyundai's new supermini, the Getz, is designed to have a strong European flavor. The Getz goes on sale in September. Hyundai expects around 80 percent of Getz production to be exported to western Europe.
Name: Axel Honisch.
Title: General manager, research and development center, Hyundai Motor Europe, since 1995.
Previous job: Team leader, chassis development, at Adam Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
Lives in: Offenbach, near Frankfurt.
Languages: German, English and hopefully fluent Italian one day.
Family: Married with two daughters ages nine and 13.
Education: Automotive engineering diploma at the Cologne Fachhochschule in 1978.
First job in car business: I spent a year at Dekra, the German automotive testing institute, before joining Opel in 1979 to test suspension systems.
First car: A Ford Taurus 12M, Ford's first front-wheel-drive model. It gave me a good chance to learn how car components work because of its frequent breakdowns.
What cars are in your garage? A Hyundai Sonata 2.7-liter V-6 and a Hyundai Atoz Spirit.
What cars have you most admired? Large classic German cars such as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, or the BMW V-8-engine models of the 1950s.
What's in your car's CD player? Rock and blues, notably Bon Jovi and Eric Clapton.
Favorite food? Italian and Korean.
Favorite restaurant? Ristorante Turin in Aschaffenburg, Germany.
Favorite film? The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman. I was so impressed by the Alfa Romeo Spider in the film that I eventually bought one.
What is your passion? Trying to enthuse other people with my ideas.
What is your greatest achievement?
Generally, I enjoy contributing to new models. The Opel Kadett Combo van of the early 1980s stands out, because I got plenty of freedom to test and develop it. It was a surprisingly good car, although that went unnoticed because it was a van. I also got great satisfaction from the fine-tuning of the sporty Opel, the Kadett N.
What has been your worst crisis in business?
No single experience, but anytime you try to do a good job and the outcome is too much of a compromise.
Have you ever been tempted to leave the auto industry?
Never. I focused on cars from a young age and always wanted to develop them.
Who do you admire most in the auto industry?
Top executives such as Ferdinand Piëch and Wendelin Wiedeking, who have achieved great results through their own personal influence.
What company do you admire outside the auto industry?
[German technology group] Jenoptik and its Chairman Lothar Spaeth. After the German reunification, Spaeth transformed this former East German company into a modern, successful and profitable organization. Jenoptik adapted quickly to a capitalist economy.
How do you relax?
By reading newspapers and walking in the mountains.
What is your current state of mind?
Excited and curious, because there are so many changes in our industry, both commercially and technically.
What is the next big thing in the auto business?
Interior packaging, electronics and weight saving. And I am curious to know what will be the powertrain of the future.