SEOUL - Park Jong-Suh embraces simplicity.
"A lot of makers take a very geometric approach to design," says Park, the 54-year-old senior executive vice president of design for Hyundai Motor Co., which includes Hyundai and Kia.
"Look at the Audi TT. It looks like it was designed with a ruler and protractor. The new century is based on the natural, the organic. I would like to move away from geometry."
The competition may want to listen.
Hyundai, the South Korean carmaker that first began selling cars in the United States in 1986, led the U.S. industry last year with a 41.7 percent sales increase.
Sales in the first quarter of this year were up 16.9 percent; Hyundai is on track to sell 400,000 vehicles this year.
While low prices and a 10-year warranty have helped, so have head-turning designs such as the Santa Fe sport-utility, with its aggressive front end, and the sleeker, redesigned 2003 Tiburon coupe.
"Styling is one success factor for Hyundai's U.S. expansion," says Geoffrey Boyd, an auto analyst with CLSA in Seoul. "(Styling) is one of the easiest gaps to start filling. Certain characteristics look to be lifted and they may be guilty of having borrowed a lot. But it all blends together well to come across as a unique package."
Park says Hyundai's design is evolving.
"I'd say that at this point Hyundai is a company that's still into experimenting with different ideas," Park says. "This experimenting is partly to do with Hyundai's short history and with Korea's relatively young car culture."
In Park's view, the company has the critical mass to usher in an era of originality.