Hyundai Motor Co. was once known for humdrum styling, but the Korean automaker's audacious fluidic sculpture design language has been a big part of the company's ascent in the United States.
For example, exotic surface treatment helped make styling the second-most-influential reason, after the warranty, why consumers bought the Sonata, according to a J.D. Power and Associates study.
There's also the swoopy Elantra, the athletic new Veloster sports coupe and the understated though elegant Genesis sedan.
But vehicle designs aren't always received the same way in every market. In the more conservative Korean market, for example, some consumers have resisted the U.S.-designed Sonata's exterior styling.
"There are some people who are very critical of our [design] activities" in Korea, says Cho Won Hong, chief marketing officer for Hyundai Motor. "However, we believe we should continue to apply this design identity. This is the direction that we'll continue to have."
Thomas Buerkle, chief designer of Hyundai's European Design Center, says that the Sonata was a "revolution" for Hyundai, and that Korean consumers are starting to embrace the design language after initial resistance. He says the Elantra that followed the Sonata has been well received in Korea.
"Fluidic sculpture was something radically new in the market, and the customer has to follow, so it takes some time," he says.