Andre Hudson might have been an unlikely candidate to create one of the most influential car designs of recent memory: the 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
He was recently married, and a four-door family sedan was far down on his shopping list. But that may be why he wound up designing the Sonata's flowing lines and sculpted surface textures.
"I was thinking I never would shop for this car, but if I had to buy a four-door sedan, what would I want it to be?" Hudson recalls. "It would look kind of like a coupe. I'd lose the corners; it would be a very three-dimesional design; it would look fast; it would look muscular."
Hudson's exterior design proposal won the global competition among Hyundai's studios in Germany, South Korea and the United States. The car shook up the mid-sized sedan segment. Its looks helped boost Hyundai's U.S. market share to new heights after it debuted in 2010.
Hudson joined General Motors in 1998 after graduating from the transportation design program at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. His GM portfolio included the Chevrolet SSR, the V-12 Cadillac Cien and the Cadillac Sixteen concepts. He also worked on the 2005 Hummer H3 and designed the exterior of the Saturn Sky roadster.
During nearly nine years at Hyundai, Hudson has worked on the 2011 Elantra's exterior, the 2011 Azera and the 2009 Genesis Coupe.
Hudson credits the willingness of Hyundai's leaders to take risks with design. He says Hyundai could have gone a more conservative route with the Sonata. A more evolutionary, traditional design was considered.
"It was handsome, but it was kind of a box. Then our model was sitting there looking like a spaceship," he says. "Leadership could have said, 'No way, that's too much,' but again, it was a perfect storm and everybody agreed it was time to do this, and it was a great thing for us."