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Hyundai developer Albert Biermann: Extreme driving pleasure is important to us

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Hyundai developer Albert Biermann
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How does it feel to start over after such a long time at BMW in Korea do? Are you experiencing a culture shock?

B iermann: It's an extremely exciting culture shock. I think the country is beautiful and the people are very friendly. My wife and I feel welcome everywhere. The corporate culture is also different, but in no way worse than before.

What are the biggest differences?

Biermann: This culture, as I knew it, with an infinite number of meetings and voting rounds, in which everyone explains again why something doesn't work: that doesn't exist in the Hyundai Group. Instead of using controllers, I spend most of my time with my engineers today, and I can concentrate much more on the car than before. It's refreshingly different.

Is that also because Hyundai is a family-run company?

Biermann: That sure is. I recently drove a whole morning on the Nordschleife with Hyundai CEO, Vice Chairman E. S. Chung. His father, Chairman Chung, is with us almost every month at the development center in Namyang. There is discussion on the product and, of course, really accelerating in the projects. You can feel how important the work of us engineers is to the family. In Germany, as a technician, you're just the idiot to whom the smallest mistakes are put on the table every day by some clever bunch, and who is constantly asked why all of this isn't even faster and cheaper. We look more closely to the customer and ahead and talk together about how we can get better.

At Hyundai you manage the sub-brand N, under which the particularly sporty ones Cars are grouped together. What is your timetable?

Biermann: L os it is 2017 with the Hyundai i30 N, which will produce around 250 hp. Another model will follow in mid-2018, aimed primarily at the Korean and American markets.

A sedan? Is there anything else coming for Europe?

Biermann: No, not a limousine, but a model with a strong character that is very popular in the USA and Korea. For Europe, we also have a second model in the pipeline for 2018.

Hyundai
Hyundai i30 N as a prototype.
How do you see the Hybridization in the sports car sector?

Biermann: The technology already exists in the Ioniq. Nothing has been decided at the moment, but the time will certainly come some day. It's not a problem for us either, because, as you said, we have the technology in-house.

You not only develop sports cars for Hyundai, but also test others Models from the group. What is your job?

Biermann: My division is responsible for testing and tuning all vehicles, but not for the engines and transmissions. My team and I take care of the overall vehicle testing, for example in hot and cold conditions, and we also coordinate the system, B. Chassis adjustments and overall vehicle integration for crash safety and acoustics.

What is important to you in a sports car for Hyundai N?

Biermann: Extreme driving fun and the dovetailing with motorsport, that's why we work very hard at the Nürburgring. My aim is to make high-performance cars. Even if we don't have any segment-leading engine power at first, that doesn't worry me. I measure high performance in terms of driving pleasure, and we are definitely there.

When auto motor und sport drives a Hyundai i30 N in 2017 in a comparison test: Which strengths and which weaknesses will we encounter?

Biermann: You will experience a car that is very enjoyable to drive and that will also cut a good figure on the race track. We attach great importance to being suitable for the race track while maintaining a good level of suitability for everyday use. After a lap on the Nordschleife, the brake pedal cannot be soft and the front tire no longer has any grip. This is more important to us than having the best everyday comfort.

Tests on many Hyundai and Kia models found the synthetic steering negative. How do you want to improve that?

Biermann: With normal steering systems, we have a high level of insulation and use relatively soft rubber bearings and springs, because we use themDurability is very important. Other brands may have a different philosophy, but Hyundai and Kia stand for high long-term quality. We also have extreme endurance conditions that are much more severe than those of other manufacturers. With our high-performance cars things are of course different, high-performance customers are more careful with their cars and avoid bad roads. It is much more about feedback, precision and agility.

Stefan Baldauf
The Hyundai i30 N Concept was shown in Paris.
You still start from a basic production car. Don't you have to make compromises here and there? In terms of body rigidity, for example?

Biermann: Of course there are limits, after all, we also have to make money with N. But I have to say that our bodyshell structure is very good because we use a very high proportion of ultra-high-strength steels. In order to get the car sufficiently stiff, we only had to stiffen very little. I've experienced different things in my career. We have the freedom to adapt and further develop the engines, but there won't be a completely separate engine at the start. But I do not rule out that we will address this topic later.

With which transmission do you want to couple the turbo gasoline engine of the i30 N?

Biermann: First of all with a manual gearbox. But we have an in-house dry seven-speed dual clutch transmission, we are also working on one with a wet clutch and eight gears.

So there are other options for the future. Is all-wheel drive an issue?

Biermann: We are testing cars with all-wheel drive and significantly more power. But there is no decision at all as to whether or when we will bring something onto the market. The important thing now is to get a good car to the start and to flank it with motorsport activities. Then we'll see how the Hyundai N theme is received. And if things go well, we can follow up: hybrid, all-wheel drive or dual clutch transmission.

How does a Hyundai N differ from a Kia GT? After all, Kia should be the sportier younger brand in the group.

Biermann: A Hyundai N-model is suitable for the race track - and not just for one or two laps, but until the tank is empty. A Kia GT is not developed so intensively for the racetrack, but is more suitable for everyday use. The N models have more far-reaching changes in the areas of chassis, drive train and aerodynamics. Much more is changed compared to the base car. But if you look at the range of normal production cars, you will see: Hyundai models are comfortable to drive, Kia a bit sportier. The current SUV Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, on which I was allowed to work, already manage this differentiation well.

How does the group manage it in general, despite its two brands to differentiate better in principle with identical technology?

Biermann: The Hyundai and Kia brands operate almost completely independently of one another. The only point where it all comes together is the development department.

This means that the Hyundai design team does not know what the Kia will look like in this class until the end , and vice versa?

Biermann: Right, they don't know anything about each other. Marketing and sales are also completely separate. There is of course product planning at the head office, but this only defines the cornerstones, just as we demand synergies in technology from development. But that's all about the similarities.

Was there something at BMW that you missed?

Biermann: Maybe such an ingenious high-speed turbo engine. We don't have that at the moment. But we're working on it in advance development.

How do you see diesel in the Hyundai Group after the emissions scandal?

Biermann : Relatively relaxed. From our point of view, the history of diesel continues, although the regulatory requirements are not getting any simpler. For us, however, it is worthwhile to continue investing there, because we have a strong diesel market not only in Europe, but also in Korea itself. Here, too, Hyundai conducts intensive own research in comparison to many other competitors.

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