In his keynote address at the Midwest Automotive Media Association/Chicago Auto Show breakfast, John Krafcik, president and COO of Hyundai Motor America, offered a hard look at the industry and suggested that now was not the time for evolution, but rather for revolution.
In the wake of his company’s ongoing sales success story and Genesis winning the North American Car of the Year, Krafcik said: “It’s time to take notice. The world has changed and right now is our time to change.” He further charged automotive executives to take responsibility for the industry’s shortcomings by creating higher-quality vehicles, voluntary restraint of executive compensation and improved safety features. Krafcik also said that manufacturers need to respond to environmental and public needs by developing innovations in fuel economy.
“It is abundantly clear that improved fuel economy makes sense for our industry and for our economy,” said Krafcik.
He discussed the current economic situation and how it has impacted the automobile industry. According to Krafcik, there should be no question of whether this is a time of recession or depression. He issued a call-to-action plan aimed at automotive executives in an attempt to fix the current negative perceptions that surround the auto industry.
He noted that Hyundai already has plans to take steps toward better fuel economy and to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2015, and future plans include gas-electric hybrids and high-mileage additions of a few of their current models.
In answering follow-up questions, Krafcik touched on some of Hyundai’s future plans, including the brand’s first hybrid vehicle (due in 2010) that will be based on the Sonata and use Lithium Polymer batteries. He also defended the rear-wheel drive platform used for the Genesis and boasted that at 30 mpg, the vehicle had the best fuel economy of any RWD currently on the market.
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