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Hyundai SUVs and cars haven’t always been as popular as they are these days. While there was a time that you might not seriously consider buying a Hyundai, these days it’s one of the hottest brands around. Not only does Hyundai manufacture some of the most stylish SUVs and cars, but they also produce vehicles that are consistently rated both reliable and safe. So how did Hyundai evolve from being so-so to super?

An old bright orange Hyundai.
An old model Hyundai | Hyundai

How did Hyundai start?

A brown Hyundai Excel.
A Hyundai Excel | Hyundai

According to Auto Influence, Hyundai first began in 1947 when Chung Ju Yung, a South Korean entrepreneur, started it. The Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company was born and twenty years later it was renamed Hyundai Motor Corps. Today it is called Hyundai Motor Group.

Hyundai’s first car was the Cortina, which was based on the American Ford Cortina. It did pretty well, and the people at Hyundai were bolstered. They hired some engineers and then produced a car that was completely its own design: the Pony, which debuted in 1974. The Pony was a four-door car. It wasn’t long before Hyundai added a pickup, an estate, and a hatchback version of the Pony. These also did well, and Hyundai’s journey continued.

The Hyundai Excel was its first car in the United States, showing up in 1986. This was followed by the Sonata, which became a very popular car.

Hyundai made one major move that solidified it in the United States

An old white Hyundai.
An old Hyundai | Hyundai

Still, Hyundai wasn’t perceived as being a top-notch brand throughout the 1990s. It wasn’t until Chung Ju Yung passed Hyundai on to his son, Chung Mong Koo, that Hyundai’s revolution really began. Chung Moo Kong initiated a massive overhaul of their image, one which included a deal so good that people could hardly believe it.

It was in 1999 that Hyundai started offering an incredible warranty: ten years or 100,000 miles. At the time, this was unheard of, and though some people were in disbelief, others were willing to try out what was considered a mediocre brand, knowing their purchase was pretty much guaranteed. That was all it took. Hyundai’s sales began to improve, and with it quality and image.

Hyundai SUVs and cars aren’t without its controversies

All this doesn’t mean that the Hyundai brand is perfect. Just like every car manufacturer out there, Hyundai has faced its own share of problems. As recently as February of 2022, Hyundai and Kia (which are both owned by Hyundai Motor Group) were telling owners of roughly 500,000 of their vehicles to park outside because there’s a risk of a fire with their SUVs and sedans.

Despite its recalls and problems, Hyundai SUVs and cars remain some of the most popular vehicles you can buy today. In addition, many of them are safety award winners. For example, the 2022 Hyundai Palisade owns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top award, the Top Safety Pick+ award. Hyundai has certainly come a long way from the so-so cars they were known for in the United States in the 1980s and 90s.


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