Hyundai may only have a history that dates back to 1947, but since its formation, it has been extremely aggressive in capturing market share and in becoming one of the largest and most valuable companies in the world.
The founder of the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company, Chung Ju-Yung was born in 1915, life was hard and being the eldest of six children, Chung Ju-Yung found himself being sent to work on the family farm at the age of fourteen, disappointed at not being able to further his education, he ran away from home on numerous occasions only to be returned when his father discovered his whereabouts. Finally, in 1932, Chung Ju-Yung financed his final attempt to escape by stealing and selling one of his father's cows, as a result, he ended up 120 miles from the family farm in Seoul and in 1934 was employed in a rice shop. Two years later Chung Ju-Yung opened his own rice shop and began to learn his first lessons in business. During the Second World War, Japan occupied Korea and as a result, Koreans were prohibited from running critical businesses such as the supply of food, so Chung Ju-Yung found himself in the position where he had to close his shop. Undaunted, he first got a job as a truck driver and within a short period of time had opened his own delivery service. With the knowledge he gained servicing and repairing the lorries, he opened a garage and repair service in Seoul in 1940. By 1946, with the US Army as one of his best customers, Chung Ju-Yung forms Hyundai Auto Service in Seoul, this business would go on to finance and create the Hyundai Civil Works Company, which in turn would be merged into the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company allowing Hyundai to become the favoured contractor to the US Army throughout the Korean War and with government assistance the company soon expanded into many different markets.
In 1967 Chung Ju-Yung and his brother Se-Yung Chung established the Hyundai Motor Company and in 1968 they entered into an Overseas Assembler Agreement with Ford. This agreement allowed access to knowledge and engineering expertise, as Hyundai would go on to build Cortina's and Granada's for the South Korean market for a period of eight years. Following this success, the Hyundai group continued in its expansion with moves into cement production, shipbuilding and heavy engineering and as a result, the Korean Government chose Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo and Ssangyong to formulate a long-term strategy to promote the Korean Auto manufacturing industry. Hyundai over the next few years approached twenty-odd different companies in five different countries involved in the design, production and supply of parts of cars and with the knowledge gained produced the Hyundai Pony. The Pony was officially released in January of 1976, making Korea the second country in Asia to produce its own designed and built car, even though it relied heavily on parts and engines from Mitsubishi.
Success followed and within a decade Hyundai had begun exporting into the United States. In 1986 the Hyundai Excel was listed in the top ten products in Fortune Magazine, chiefly because of its value for money. Something that was reinforced just over a decade later when, after spending serious money and time developing the design, quality and long term customer satisfaction, Hyundai offered North American buyers a ten year / 100,000 mile warranty that further boosted their sales.
Although Hyundai has concentrated on the massive American market (with great success), it has also built on its presence in the UK and in 2004 set its best-ever sales figures in the UK selling 37,611 vehicles, these however, pale into insignificance when compared to the US market where Hyundai was named as the fifth-largest car importer into the States in 2005.
Now producing a range of vehicles from small city cars like the Getz through to the Sante Fe SUV, Hyundai continues to expand its market share and in 2006 it was named as the sixth-largest car manufacturer in the world, a position that it is looking to improve upon with massive investment including a $1 billion manufacturing plant in China.
Hyundai may have started as a company that relied on Mitsubishi to supply engines for the first cars they built, rumour has it though, that only forty years later Dr. Hyun-Soon Lee, Hyundai President of Research and Development had a conversation with Dr. Dieter Zetsche of Mercedes-Benz in which Zetsche announced that Mercedes would like to partner Hyundai in the production of four-cylinder engines, to which Lee is rumoured to have said: "I am not sure we want to share our technology". How the world moves on.
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