Hyundai will launch a new European sales, marketing and distribution subsidiary early next year.
Dutchman Bert Kreber, who ran Hyundai's independent distributor in Holland for 18 years until 1998, will head the new company's day-to-day operations along with President Y.H. Kim.
The firm will be called Hyundai Motor Europe and it will be based in Frankfurt.
Kreber moves over from the Dutch distributor's holding company, Greenib.
The launch of Hyundai Motor Europe coincides with a rapid acceleration of the Korean brand's activities in Europe.
Hyundai is launching a compact minivan and a new diesel engine range in Europe. It is also studying plans to build a new supermini at the NedCar plant in Holland that currently makes Mitsubishis and Volvos.
DaimlerChrysler agreed in June to form a strategic alliance with Hyundai. D/C also bought a 10 per cent stake in Hyundai.
Hyundai's current range lacks a supermini to fit between the Atoz mini and the larger Elantra/Accent.
'Following requests from our European dealers, we will fill that gap with a completely new model,' said Kreber.
'But because of sharp pricing in this segment, and the relatively high development and production costs required, we are currently studying what our new partners Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler can add,' he said.
'The potential for a common platform for our own brands [Hyundai and Kia] with Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler's Smart brand could mean our future supermini is made at NedCar. But such possibilities are still being studied,' said Kreber.
The future Hyundai supermini is likely to go on sale in Europe in 2002. But any production at NedCar would not start before 2004, when D/C and Mitsubishi get full control of the Dutch plant.
With 300,000 units likely to be sold in Europe this year, Hyundai is already the top-selling Korean brand here. In 1995, Hyundai sold just 110,000 units in Europe. Last year the total was 250,000, including light-commercial vehicles.
'Our commitment to Europe is proven by our new products,' said Kreber. 'From the end of this year, our new diesel engine range, developed with Detroit Diesel, will be available to European customers. And in the first half of next year, we will introduce a small MPV.'
Hyundai Motor Europe will start operating in early 2001. Hyundai also has a European product development and design center in Frankfurt.
'Starting next year, we will gradually settle down with our own European marketing, sales and public relations departments,' said Kreber. 'Europe is important, since it will account for one-third of our total export of 900,000 vehicles this year.'
Kreber said Hyundai is working to establish a new brand identity.
'When we entered Europe two decades ago, we sold on price only,' he said. 'That gradually changed to value-for-money models. We are now working to become 1/8the alternative with a personal character at affordable prices.''
Hyundai is trying to achieve this image with more advanced models, including the Trajet minivan and Santa Fe sport-utility, said Kreber.
Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Europe has developed a pan-European corporate advertising campaign and is also committing future marketing budgets to sports sponsorship.