Before N - Genesis Coupe #2
The first story covered the story of Hyundai Motor’s development of its first front-engine, rear-drive sports car, its diversified efforts to optimize performance and its achievement in motor sports with Rhys Millen’s racing team.
In the second story, we will meet the creator of Genesis Coupe, the man who planned out its development in the face of thousands of obstacles, as well as the racer who gained first-hand experience of Genesis Coupe’s genuine assets in the drift competition.
“Genesis Coupe is the car that truly delivered to the customer after overcoming a series of obstacles.
- Son Chang-eop, the former product manager of Genesis Coupe at Hyundai Motor
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Son Chang-up and I work with Hyundai Motor’s product strategy team. In 2003, I was in charge of Project BK - Genesis Coupe - while working with this team. In order to develop the front-drive, rear-drive sports car, which was never a part of our sports car line up, I started off with the car proposal and was involved with the overall product planning and development process. I was responsible for adjusting various aspects including technology, price and design.
What kind of consumer needs were there at that time?
Personally, I was engaged in many motor sports communities back in school, so I had many friends who drove sports cars. The conversations I had with them helped me a lot in coming up with the rough sketch. Then I met with a lot of people during the consumer research process: Tiburon and Tuscani purchasers, foreign brand sports car owners and many car enthusiasts both in Korea and in the U.S. At that time, all the consumers thought that Hyundai Motor’s line-up needed a model with the suitable driving force to be called a sports car, in other words, a front drive, rear drive sports coupe. Afterwards, we acquired 300s ps engine output based on FR, setting ourselves a new goal of developing a sports-driving optimized car.
I heard that there were many hurdles at the initial stage.
It was certainly a project that every auto coordinator would dream of; but in reality there were many difficulties that we had to overcome. Although we needed large investments to develop a FR sports car, the market was not big enough, which meant that we couldn’t guarantee the required sales results. In addition, since it was the first type of FR sports car that Hyundai Motor had attempted, we lacked the necessary data and know-how. There were also many obstacles, provoking debate among us as to whether or not to proceed with the project. From the coordinator’s stance, it was very hard to persuade those opposed, but what I focused on was the customers’ voice, which was demanding the FR. Since all of us in charge of Genesis Coupe shared the same passion and vision, we were able to embark on the project by persuading others in decision-making capacities.
Genesis Coupe certainly had a hard start. What was the part that troubled you the most in terms of development?
While we could sacrifice other parts, we could not compromise on the performance of the sports car to make it drive well and stop well. For this, we needed to develop a platform, engine and suspension exclusive to Genesis Coupe. While we started off with the same platform as FR premium sedan BH, we needed to completely change everything to include the special features of the sports car. In terms of the engine, we envisioned an output of over 200 for 2.0 turbo and 3.8 RS engine for 300 ps. In order to acquire the braking function that went well with the high performance, we conducted various experiments, including the use of BREMBO brake system, trying our best to reach the standards expected by our customers
The second part related to styling. We focused on sports car-like proportions with the white long nose short deck design, and the far-stretched wheel base based on long hood and short turn line. This was the part that particularly differentiated our Coupe from other sports cars; our unique presentation of the rear seat window silhouette. A lot of people said that this didn’t go well, but I just persisted with the idea, in the belief that it really played a decisive role in ensuring Genesis Coupe’s originality.
Are there any particularly special memories from those days?
Since we didn’t have any experience in developing a FR, sitting at our desks didn’t help at all. In order to really respond to consumer demands, we thought we had to experience the FR sports car of competing brands onsite, where such cars were available. At that time we were cooperating with the R&D center to promote the “Cross Country” project. We went all over the States to test the models in competition, the results of which would be reflected in our development. We had to ride the car all day without going over the mountains and falls for an entire week.
In this process, what we discovered was the importance of suspension for a sports car. At that time, we considered suspension to be only solid and low. But through our experiences, we found out that the suspension of competitor models was not built that way; while they offered a comfortable ride on normal roads, the suspension was always ready to tighten up the chassis. So it was not only about being solid, but also about being strong, which was just the feeling that the customers wanted. After we came back, we set the standard for suspension and experience quality development; we started with developing the Macpherson strut suspension, which was exclusive to Genesis Coupe. But it was still difficult to catch up with the competitors, who may have spent a long time achieving harmonious settings. Getting more data and know-how required more time; ultimately, we had some more homework to do with regards to the facelift model.
The facelift model was a huge improvement compared to the initial model. What points did you focus on?
The facelift model concentrated on the fine tuning, which was about enhancing the invisible details instead of focusing on the exterior design or spec changes. We particularly worked on improving the handle function and premium feel, so it would be befitting of a high performing car. With continued research and development of the suspension, the initial model having left some room for improvement, we were finally able to realize our goal of providing a solid driving experience. The interior design’s button and texture were also hugely improved. In addition, a shift indicator which confirms the transmission stage and the turbo boost gage were newly installed to add more joy to the driving experience.
What does Genesis Coupe mean for Hyundai Motor?
I would say that Genesis Coupe was the model that kept us on our toes in our efforts to deliver our promises to our customers. At the moment that we were developing Genesis Coupe, other popular brands stopped production of the FR sports car and returned to the FF sports car. The evidence for this was the disappearance of Japanese FR sports cars which had once been sweeping the market; this was due to a drop in sales and profitability issues. But Hyundai Motor did not follow that trend; we reflected the car aficionado’s needs and introduced Genesis Coupe. Ironically, after the launch of Genesis Coupe, Japanese brands’ FR sports cars were reborn. In addition, by continuing Hyundai Motor’ sports model lineup, including Scoupe, Tiburon and Tuscani, we were able to accumulate data and know-how about new drive methods.
What do you think about the Hyundai N which is to be introduced?
Since N is targeted towards the niche market, it should be a perfectly customer- centric car. I hope that N is really targeted towards those who want to purchase based on a strong interest in high performance cars. Although the numbers may be small, these very few customers have the potential to become the opinion leaders, spreading their experiences and views. Of course, in order to really impress them, N’s spirit of not compromising on performance should be the fundamental basis.
“After experiencing Genesis Coupe I am now fond of drift”
- Chung Jun-yong, a current Genesis Coupe owner
Drift is an artistic expression of car sliding. We know someone who really enjoys driving through drift: it is drift racer Chung Jun-yong, who is also a Genesis Coupe owner.
His two Genesis Coupes are his best friends; they accompany him on every driving course, from thrilling circuits to general roads. Let’s hear more from Chung who says he fell in love with drift after getting to know it with Genesis Coupe.
How did you first get to meet Genesis Coupe?
I’ve tried many imported sports cars in the past, but the absence of a FR sports car was quite depressing. Thus, the launch of Genesis Coupe was great news. However, since it was Korea’s first FR sports car, I didn’t expect much from the performance perspective. But, in the very first test drive, I knew that it had surpassed my expectations. I really felt that Hyundai Motor had worked hard to develop this beautiful piece - Genesis Coupe. I first bought the 200 Turbo model in 2009 and I recently bought a 380 GT model; so I have two of them now.
Why do you own two Genesis Coupes?
When I first started drift, I chose the 200 turbo model because its engine was light and the model provided intensive output with a simple mapping. In addition, it had good parts and maintenance capability, which also applies for 3.8 RS engine in 380 GT model. Have you heard about Japan’s JZ engine or U.S.’ LS engine, which are the representative tuning base-exclusive engines? They were immensely popular for a long time because they had good output, durability, maintenance potential and part supply, which made it possible for customers to tune the model customized to the market situation. I believe that 3.8 RS engine in Genesis Coupe 380 GT has such potential. That’s why I bought another 380 GT model recently.
Could you please introduce the drift game you are participating in now?
Drift competition is quite like auto figure skating. The victory depends on the car’s entry speed, angle, tire’s smoke volume and audience’s reaction. The competition is a one-on-one game, and each contestant gets two chances. The launch of Genesis Coupe, the first FR sports car in Korea, really stimulated drift racing in Korea. Of course, it may take some time for the formula drift culture to be established here as it is in foreign countries. However, I am looking forward to it, as the interest in drift games has already grown much bigger.
Do any game memories that stand out for you?
During a drift race, unintentional collisions can occur. I also experienced one when I was competing against an imported car. The collision was huge because of the high driving speed; but it turned out so badly that the opposing player gave up the game. The car was squashed extensively and the suspension was severely damaged, which made it impossible for him to continue. But there was no damage to my Genesis Coupe. The opposing player had much to be concerned about because of the maintenance costs and such; the players need to pay out of their own pockets for any accidents that occur during the game. This player then changed his car to Genesis Coupe since the setting is easy and the parts are easy to find and are less expensive. Thus, I somehow became an ambassador for Genesis Coupe. Of course, that player is still enjoying his Genesis Coupe as well.
What does Genesis Coupe mean for you?
I believe that Genesis Coupe contributed greatly to the establishment of a variety of auto cultures within this country; it triggered the drift and track day culture in Korea. Fortunately, many circuits were built at the time of Genesis Coupe’s launch, so people were able to enjoy sports driving in the circuits instead of on the roads. Genesis Coupe played an important role in expanding this culture. The fact that it offered a reasonable maintenance fee for Korean customers was another element that contributed to the culture expansion.
While sports cars were already available for anyone, it was difficult for Hyundai Motor to make the decision to develop an FR model. I also waited for the FR sports car for a long time, but I was quite biased, believing that Korean-made FR cars would be less competitive. Of course, perceptions like that have been completely changed after experiencing Genesis Coupe. The weight on the front side that was mentioned by some of the owners meant it had a beautiful presentation at the drift. I think that Genesis Coupe is a result of Hyundai Motor’s spirit of taking up a challenge in a field that nobody ever dared to venture into before. This is why people are highly anticipating the N that is to be introduced.
Genesis Coupe, Hyundai Motor’s first FR sports car, is the result of the company’s resolute spirit and will to launch an FR model in a time when the production of FR sports cars that swept the market was actually stopped. There were a series of issues, but the strong determination of the company to come up with a genuine FR sports car overcame them all.
The sports car model history that continues down through Scoupe, Tiburon, Tuscani and Genesis Coupe is a testament to Hyundai Motor’s continued efforts to interact and communicate with car enthusiasts who seek the pleasure and thrills of driving. Now, in a bid to realize the pure moment where the car and the driver become one, Hyundai N will be the protagonist of the next part of the story. N’s story, “Hyundai Motor’s dedication towards the people who love cars”, is about to be unveiled.
More stories on Before N
Before N - Genesis Coupe #1
A New Leap as the Genuine FR Sports Car
Before N - Scoupe #1
The Dawn of the Korean Sports Car
Before N - Scoupe #2
The Past and Present of Scoupe
Before N - Tiburon #1
Korea-born Shark that Went Ahead of its Time
Before N - Tiburon #2
Icon of Challenge
Before N - Tuscani #1
Achieving an Enhanced Driving Experience
Before N - Tuscani #2
Technology that Goes Beyond Expectations