It's been three years since Hyundai announced the formation of its N performance division, and now the automaker is finally launching an N-branded car in the US. Plus, it'll soon show off . But along with the introduction of the this year, N bosses want to expand the brand's appeal by offering dealer accessories, providing driving experiences and supporting owners with generous warranties.
First things first: officials I spoke with at a media event in Germany this week declined to say which models will get the N treatment next. Europe will soon add the i30 Fastback N alongside the existing Genesis luxury brand won't get N variants.. But as for the next N cars in the US, we'll have to wait and see. The one confirmation: N president Albert Biermann says models in Hyundai's
As to growing its new performance sub-brand, the first step is to offer a mid-grade entry between standard Hyundai and full-on N cars. Called N Line, that will entail cars dressed up a little bit with different parts, as well as dealer accessories that could allow customers to hop-up the car they already own -- whether it's a plain-Jane Hyundai or a spicy N model. Think of it as something like Fiat Chrysler's Mopar accessory range. A slideshow at media event hinted that parts like bucket seats, new wheels, upgraded brakes and different spoilers could all be part of the offering once N Line ramps up.
"It will allow customers to taste the N feeling, so to speak," said Thomas Schemera, Hyundai's head of High Performance Vehicles and Motorsports divisions. "Or you can make your N car more capable."
The i30 N Line launches in Europe later this summer. Its various tweaks include 18-inch wheels, a dual exhaust, a new shifter and different seats, all of which were inspired by the i30 N, and there are mild suspension and engine tweaks, too. A Hyundai US spokesman said he couldn't comment on when N Line models or accessories would debut in our market.
Another of N's primary goals is getting people excited about Hyundai cars in general, and Schemera sees hands-on driving experiences as key. N has already green-lit such programs in its home market of South Korea, and it "just approved" for those programs to expand to Europe and the US. Both N and non-N cars will be offered for test drives through dealerships.
Since Hyundai doesn't necessarily have an established car fanbase the way, say, Schemera's former employer BMW M did, he said that getting people behind the wheel is important. Schemera said it can be tough to create a business case for these arrangements. One potential strategy: ask customers to pay for the driving experience up front, but then reimburse them for that cost if they end up buying a car.
Customers who do buy the sporty new Veloster N once it launches this fall can rest assured that using their cars as intended won't be cause for arguments with the warranty department. Schemera insists that simple track-day use won't be grounds for warranty cancellation.
"We said, hey, it's handled like a regular production car, so there's no problem with the warranty," Schemera said. "We haven't had that problem yet."
After about a year of i30 N sales in Europe, he reports "zero point zero problems, no complaints" about warranty coverage. However, there are some limits: ECU tuning -- reflashing the computer for more horsepower -- or changing suspension or brake parts could pose a problem for warranty coverage.
One thing's for sure: Hyundai's N brand may have taken a while to launch, but it's picking up speed and should be fun to watch.