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Is Hyundai a Japanese Car Company?

Toyota and Honda logos on display at an auto show are iconic images of a Japanese car company
The logos for Toyota and Honda are seen at the New York International Auto Show | STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

The Hyundai brand is very well known in the United States. The brand has grown in both presence and reputation. However, some people might still be confused about exactly where Hyundai Motor Company came from. Does it hail from Japan like the Japanese car company Toyota, or Honda? Here’s a little rundown of the Hyundai brand and its origin.

2020 Hyundai Palisade is on display at the 112th Annual Chicago Auto Show. It's a perfect example of how this Korean brand competes with Japanese car company rivals.
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

What does Hyundai mean?

First of all, what about the name? Let’s talk about what Hyundai means. How do you even say Hyundai? Is it HI-oon-DYE? Or maybe Hoon-DYE? No, it’s neither of these. It is, in fact, pronounced HUN-day. Not complicated, but the spelling tends to throw people off from time to time.

The word Hyundai translates to English as “Modernity” in Korean. According to Planet Hyundai, the slogan for Hyundai Motor Company is “New Thinking, New Possibilities.” So, this runs parallel with the general mission of the car company as well as the name, Hyundai.

What company makes Hyundai engines?

Mechanic tunes up an old Galloper engine for one of the Korean cars
A mechanic works on an old Galloper engine | Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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The engine of a car is an absolute make-it-or-break-it piece of the puzzle. But who makes the engines that go into Hyundai vehicles? According to Auto Influence, Hyundai engines were outsourced until the company released its own Hyundai engine in 1993.

The first Hyundai engine was a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine. At the time of its debut, it was good for 71 horsepower and well as 81 pound-feet of torque. Hyundai also began making its own transmissions around this time. In fact, this meant that Hyundai vehicles are fashioned officially from all-Hyundai parts.

Hyundai shows off their 2020 Sonata Hybrid at the Chicago Auto Show makes a statement that you don't have to be a Honda or Toyota.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid | Scott Olson/Getty Images

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The original four-cylinder, 1.3-liter engine pumped out 71 horsepower and 81 pounds-feet of torque. The brand also succeeded in creating their own transmission, meaning the company now had the ability to produce a vehicle composed solely of Hyundai parts. Not many vehicles can feature this combination of brand-specific parts, truly emphasizing Hyundai’s rising role in the automotive industry.

Is it a Japanese brand?

No. Hyundai is not a Japanese car company. Rather, this is a Korean brand that originated in Seoul, South Korea. That was back in 1947 by Chung Ju-Yung. At that point in time, Hyundai was a construction firm. So, instead of being Japanese Hyundai Motor Company is, in fact, Korean.

2021 Hyundai Accent parked with plants in the background
2021 Hyundai Accent | Hyundai

Today, Hyundai Motor Company is a multinational auto brand. However, the headquarters remain in Seoul, South Korea. The brand has a large presence in the US. Popular cars like the Tucson and the Santa Fe are marketed as catering specifically to Americans and their families.

A silver model of the Korean brand's Tuscon crossover SUV in the desert competes with other made by a Japanese car company
Hyundai Tucson | Hyundai

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Do Hyundai cars last long?

There have been times that Hyundai didn’t get as much respect as others, such as Japanese car company Honda or Toyota. Today, Hyundai’s reputation in the US is much improved. The brand also boasts an incredible 10-year warranty. But how reliable are Hyundai vehicles? Comments on Car Talk give decent testament to their longevity. For instance, it seems the general consensus concerning Hyundai reliability on Car Talk is that it’s typically very good.

“the initial quality of Hyundai has improved greatly and I am seeing lots of 8-10 year old Hyundais still on the road so it makes me think that they are building cars to last a long time”

Thinking of Buying a Hyundai | Car Talk
Hyundai Kona is displayed at the 88th Geneva International Motor Show demonstrates Korean innovation, not that of a Japanese car company
The Hyundai Kona | Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Overall, buying a Hyundai will bring a lot of value into the equation. But it’s not a Japanese car company. Hyundai Motor Company is a Korean brand headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.