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US investigates failing air bags in Hyundai, Kia cars

Airbags installed in 425,000 Kia and Hyundai vehicles are being investigated after the devices failed to deploy in crashes in which four people died and six others were injured.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began the investigation  after airbags malfunctioned in six crashes involving four 2011 Hyundai Sonatas and two others in 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortes.

The NHTSA review began late last month after Hyundai notified the regulatory agency that “airbag control units showing that an electrical over-stress condition of an … electronic component occurred in three of the crashes.”

The NHTSA review stops short of a formal recall of the vehicles, although there is still possibility of one. Hyundai opted to pre-empt any formal federal action by unilaterally recalling 154,753 Sonatas from model year 2011.

Hyundai’s shares fell 3.8 per cent in Seoul, the biggest drop in more than two months. Kia lost 3.5 per cent, the most in more than six months.

“This is just the start of an investigation — we don’t know how much it will be expanded yet,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior researcher at state-run Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade in Sejong City, South Korea. “It is surely bad news for Hyundai, which is already seeing sluggish sales in the U.S.”

Air bags already are linked to the largest car-related recall in US history, it led to Japan’s Takata Corp. to seek court protection from creditors after its devices were linked to at least 17 deaths.

Unlike the Takata situation, which involved exploding air bags with shrapnel, this latest probe involves devices that failed to deploy at all.

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All-new Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Motor has released a first teaser image of its first fully-electric SUV ahead of the official unveiling, on 27 February.

Hyundai Motor will be the first automotive brand across Europe to make an all-electric compact SUV available to everyone, coming to the market in mid-2018.

The All-New Kona Electric will feature two different powertrain versions offering customers one of the most powerful electric engines on the market with a class leading range of almost 470 kilometres (internal target under WLTP regulations) and a great fun-to-drive character.

Further details will be disclosed on 27 February, ahead of the car’s world premiere at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.

The All-New Kona Electric

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Hyundai’s 190km self-driving journey

A fleet of Hyundai Motor Company’s next generation fuel cell electric cars have succeeded in completing a self-driven 190km journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang.

This is the first time in the world that level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel cell electric cars.

Prior to this, autonomous driving has been demonstrated at a limited speed on some sections of domestic roads, but this is the first-time autonomous cars have driven such a long distance at 100-110 km/h, the maximum speed allowed by law on Korean highways.

The demonstration started in Seoul on 2 February with the ‘CRUISE’ and ‘SET’ buttons being pressed on the autonomous-driving steering wheel of each vehicle, at which point the cars immediately switched to self-driving mode and began the 190km journey to Pyeongchang.

Entering the highway, the vehicles moved in response to the natural flow of traffic. They executed lane changes and overtaking manoeuvres, and navigated toll gates using Hi-pass, South-Korea’s wireless expressway payment system.

“Hyundai’s philosophy for developing autonomous driving technology is to provide the highest level of safety combined with a high standard of convenience that our customers expect,” said Jinwoo Lee, head of the Intelligent Safety Technology Centre at Hyundai Motor Group.

Autonomous driving processes a high volume of data, which requires a lot of power. The fuel cell electric model is able to produce electricity through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell stack, making it the optimal vehicle model choice for this test.

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Tesla’s new competition

The Nexo – Hyundai’s newest practical hydrogen fuel cell car – made its debut on Monday during the Hyundai’s press conference at CES 2018. 

“Hydrogen energy is the key to building a more sustainable society. Hyundai Motor Company has already taken a lead in hydrogen technology with introduction of Tucson fuel cell,” said Dr. Woong-chul Yang, Vice Chairman, Hyundai Motor Company.

“Yet as another result of this earth-saving effort, today, I am so proud to introduce to you our second-generation Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle which is a culmination of our cutting-edge technologies.”

The Nexo picks up from where the Tucson FCEV left of. The Tuscon was Hyundai’s first attempt at a mass-produced hydrogen-powered vehicle that was available for customers to lease. The Nexo has similar proportions to the current Tucson compact SUV, but it has been built with a fuel cell in mind, meaning the structure is lighter and accommodates the hydrogen fuel tanks in a more strategic layout.

The result is a SUV that is 20 per cent quicker than the Tucson and can reach 100km/h in 9.6 seconds.

The Hyundai NEXO has a claimed range of around 600km — 30 per cent more than the Tucson FCEV (425km) and also more than the Tesla Model S’s circa-500km range. However, Hyundai sources insist 800km has been achieved in regular testing.

Unlike battery electric cars, which can take hours to charge, refuelling the hydrogen fuel-cell car’s pressurised tank takes only slightly longer than it does to fill a petrol or diesel vehicle – Hyundai says it’s around five minutes.

The biggest hurdle facing hydrogen cars like the NEXO remains a lack of refuelling infrastructure. Refuelling stations are few and far between. Japan for example has 28,000 EV charging stations but only 92 hydrogen fuelling stations.
Prices for the car are yet to be revealed but will likely be revealed shortly before the car goes on sale later this year. 


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Hyundai and Kia miss sales targets

Hyundai Motors and affiliate, Kia Motors said they sold only 7.25 million vehicles in 2017, missing their global sales target of 8.25 million, on Tuesday.

Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group.

Hyundai Motors only shipped 4.5 million vheicles this year, compared with its target of 5.08 million. Kia Motors sold 2.75 million vehicles, shy of the goal of 3.17 million.

“With the global economy continuing its low growth, trade protectionism spreading and competition intensifying in the automobile industry, uncertainty is growing more than ever,” Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo said in his New Year message to employees.

Furthermore, Hyundai Motor shares fell for a third straight year in 2016, down 2 percent, while Kia Motors was the worst-performing stock among major car makers with a 25 percent slump.

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Hyundai and Kia to offer AI assistants

Hyundai and Kia both have reputations as keeping up to date with leading car technologies, so its no news that the Korean automakers have revealed a plan to include AI assistants in their new cars starting from 2019. 

The two brands took a major step towards equipping future connected vehicles with the voice recognition technology necessary to keep pace with growing, real-time data needs of drivers. Hyundai’s “Intelligent Personal Agent,” (IPA), a voice-enabled virtual assistant system, will be deployed in new models set to roll out as early as 2019.

Hyundai’s “Intelligent Personal Agent,” a voice-enabled virtual assistant system, will be deployed in new models set to roll out as early as 2019.

The Intelligent Personal Agent is unique in that it acts as a proactive assistant system, predicting the driver’s needs and providing useful information. For instance, the system may give an early reminder of an upcoming meeting and suggest departure times that account for current traffic conditions.

This sounds a lot like what other voice assistants do, but the car brands are counting on support for “multiple-command recognition” to set itself apart from the competition. When the user says, “Tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow and turn off the lights in our living room,” the system recognises two separate commands in the same sentence and completes each task separately.

You won’t have to wait until 2019 to see the technology in action. Hyundai will unveil Intelligent Personal Agent, at CES 2018, and it’ll test a “simplified” take on the Agent in hydrogen fuel cell cars slated to drive on South Korean roads throughout the year.

It’s hard to say if IPA will have an advantage over companies borrowing AI from the likes of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s more the universality that will be important due to the fact that you won’t have to buy a premium car to treat your car like a smart home hub. 

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Hyundai reveals next-gen fuel-cell SUV

Hyundai Motor has offered an early glimpse of its next-generation fuel-cell vehicle, well ahead of the hydrogen-powered SUV’s official launch early next year. At a special preview event held in Seoul, the yet-to-be-named SUV previews Hyundai’s second commercially produced hydrogen model and uses the company’s fourth generation of hydrogen fuel cell technology developed on four key pillars that focus on fuel cell system efficiency, performance, durability, and tank storage density.
“With exceptional efficiency, serene styling, and uncompromised performance, our next generation fuel cell SUV is the true epitome of an eco-friendly vehicle of the future,” Lee Ki-sang, Senior Vice President of Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Technology Centre, says. “Hyundai Motor will take lead in developing and producing green energy vehicles that would ultimately complement a near-zero emission society.”
By enhancing fuel cell performance, reducing hydrogen consumption, and optimizing key components, the vehicle’s efficiency is greatly improved compared to the its predecessor, the ix35 Fuel Cell. The new SUV boasts an efficiency level of 60 per cent, or a 9 per cent increase from the ix35’s 55.3 per cent. With enhanced system efficiency, the new model targets a driving range of more than 580km on a single charge. 
The new model’s maximum output is enhanced by 20 per cent compared to its predecessor, boasting an impressive 163PS (119kW) of power. The fuel cell SUV also improves the car’s cold start capability, overcoming the challenges of starting fuel cell vehicles in temperatures below freezing point. 
By employing highly durable catalyst technology, the new hydrogen-powered SUV ensures even greater longevity than its predecessor.
The next generation hydrogen vehicle makes significant improvements in tank storage density. The tank package now features three equally-sized tanks, as opposed to two of different sizes. World-class tank gravimetric capacity (hydrogen storage mass per tank weight) was achieved through innovations to the plastic liner configuration and efficient layering pattern, which resulted in a reduction of thickness.
The mass-produced new vehicle will also feature advanced driver assistance technologies.
Hyundai says it will take a multi-pronged approach to its eco-vehicle program. The company is committed to a future vehicle line-up comprising a variety of powertrain options – electric, hybrid and fuel cell – to suit customers’ varied lifestyles.
Spurred on by greater global demand for fuel-efficient, eco-friendly vehicles, the brand’s goal is to lead the global popularisation of hybrid vehicles, expanding its lineup to SUVs and large vehicles. Another part of the plan is the development of 4WD and FR (Front Engine Rear Wheel Drive) variants, building on its proprietary Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED) system, which was developed in 2011.
While Hyundai continues to develop its leadership of the electric vehicle market with its current IONIQ model, the company also aims to establish a lineup ranging from small EVs to large Genesis-brand models. Hyundai’s electric vehicle development will take place in multiple phases: 
• Launch of EV version of the Kona compact SUV, with range of 390km in first half of 2018
• Launch of Genesis EV model in 2021
• Launch of long-range EV, with 500km range after 2021
Hyundai will reveal the SUV early next year in Korea, followed by the North American and European markets. 
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Hyundai unveils new hot hatch

Hyundai has unveiled the i30 N overnight, which will compete against the Golf GTI and Civic Type R in the growing hot hatch market.

The new hatchback is the first car to be manufactured under the N line-up, and while it is based on the recent i30 model, the N model also contains a slew of new high-performance driving features, including electronic slip differential, electronic controlled suspension, rev matching, launch control, high-performance tyres and a lap timer.

Two engine options will be available in the i30 N – a four-cylinder 2.0-litre T-GDI turbo engine generating 184kW of power and 353Nm, and a performance option generating 202kW, with the same 353Nm of torque. Both versions have a top speed of 250kph.

Drivers can adjust the engine, rev-matching, exhaust, suspension and slip differential and stability with five driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N Mode and N Custom.

“The Hyundai i30 N has been developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in an accessible high-performance package,” says Albert Biermann, executive vice-president of Hyundai’s performance development and high performance vehicle division.

The new i30 N is set to launch in New Zealand at the end of the year, with pricing to be announced.

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Hyundai to join Armstrong Motor’s Botany dealership

Armstrong Motor Group has announced Hyundai will join the new Botany dealership alongside Mercedes-Benz. The Ti Rakau Drive dealership will contain facilities for two separate brands, with nearly 5,500m2 of floor space and a total size of 11,000 m2.

“We now have two exceptional franchises for the site that complement each other really well, and it will create a new automotive centre that East Auckland has lacked up until now,” said managing director Rick Armstrong.

“We expect Mercedes-Benz to be open in early June, with Hyundai following shortly after,” he added.

Armstrong Motor Group have been developing the new dealership for two years, which will trade as East Auckland Hyundai.

“We are incredibly happy with the outcome. The dealership is in the centre of one of New Zealand’s fastest growing areas and now having Hyundai – a quality high volume brand with a wide range of vehicles,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong Motor Group began in Christchurch in 1993 and now represents 19 brands over 13 locations across New Zealand.

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ANCAP for Great Wall

Four vehicles have been rated by safety watchdog ANCAP, with the Great Wall Steed ute scoring the lowest marks at two stars.

Stella Stocks, general manager of motoring services at AA, told Auofile it’s very disappointing that two-star vehicles are sold new in New Zealand.

“The biggest issue for AA is that two-star vehicles can still come in to the country and be sold new. People need to buy the safest vehicle they can afford, and they should check out all the safety features and the ANCAP rating and the areas of concern in the vehicle before they buy.

“Most cars and many utes have five stars, and they are in the secondhand market,” she says.

ANCAP CEO James Goodwin also found the results disappointing. “Despite claims from the vehicle brand that the Chinese dual cab is ‘all-new’ and offers ‘outstanding levels of performance, value, safety and comfort,’ the underpinnings of the Steed differ little to that of the previous generation,” he says.

“While Great Wall Motors has added safety assist technology not available on its earlier offering to the market, the Steed’s structural integrity is like a step back in time,” Stocks added.

“In new cars today we expect to see a very high standard of occupant protection during a crash test. However, the Steed doesn’t come close to meeting that expectation.”

The previous-generation V240 ute also received a two-star rating when it was tested in 2009. The model was discontinued in 2016.

The dual-cab Steed was released in September last year after a new distributor took over from independent importer Ateco Automotive in July 2016.

“While the Steed is equipped with six airbags and electronic stability control, features which were not offered on the previous model, there has been little change to the vehicle’s structure to improve the safety of the passenger cabin,” Goodwin added.

Concerning results from ANCAP included excessive footwell deformation, separation of footwell panels and pedal displacement in the frontal offset crash test, which scored 8.3 out of 16.

Driver and front passenger protection from whiplash was rated marginal, and ANCAP warned that without top-tether child restraints, the ute was unsuitable for transporting young children.

However, three other vehicles received five-star ratings – The Honda Civic sedan and hatch, the Hyundai i30 (and all variants) and the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo Activity van.

The five-star rating applies to all variants of the Honda Civic sedan, with the hatch to be released locally in May. The Type R is the exception and is unrated.

The top rating for the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo Activity applies to all models built from January 2017.

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‘Mullet Amnesty Day’ no joke

Daniel McNicholl before the big chop

Holden’s ‘Mullet Amnesty Day’ on April 1 was no joke for West Aucklander Daniel McNicholl, who won a brand-new Holden Astra in exchange for sacrificing his mullet.

McNicholl was the only one to try his luck at West City Holden on Saturday, where he was greeted by race car driver Greg Murphy and a hairstylist.

“I thought it was probably a joke,” McNicholl said. “I decided to turn up in case it wasn’t, and I’m bloody glad I did.”

A suspicious McNicholl refused to believe it wasn’t a prank until Murphy gave him the keys to the Astra, bearing the numberplate 0MULET.

The new car is a welcome relief for McNicholl and his partner, after their previous car, which was uninsured, was stolen.

McNicholl’s suspicion is unsurprising, given the long history of car makers pulling elaborate April Fool’s Day pranks to boost brand awareness and generate online interest.

McLaren’s ‘Feathered Body Wrap’

This year was no exception, with McLaren, BMW, Hyundai and Lexus, among others, releasing outrageous ‘new’ products over the weekend.

McLaren announced the ‘Feathered Body Wrap’ option for its 570GT model on Saturday, promising the finish weighed as much as coat of paint and was aerodynamically optimised to reduce drag.

Hyundai’s ‘Click to Fly’ service featured a drone that would deliver vehicles ordered online directly to the customer’s door via hydrogen-powered drone capable of carrying up to 2000kg.

The Lexus Lane Valet software, which was showcased in a convincing promotional virtually indistinguishable from its regular advertisements, claims to communicate with vehicles driving too slowly on the road and safely directs them to the appropriate lane, allowing the Lexus to pass.

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