Albert Biermann is a name that German performance car fans might already recognise from his time at the helm of BMW‘s M Division during a golden era that produced icons like the E46 M3 and E39 M5, but it’s his more recent work within Hyundai which has earnt him recent acclaim. Having joined Hyundai in 2015 to head up a new, grass-roots performance division under the N brand, Biermann explains exactly what he and his team have been up to over the last four years, and why this is such an important cornerstone moment for performance car design and engineering.
How did the N brand come to be, and what does it stand for?
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Originally N stood purely for Namyang [Hyundai’s main test HQ in South Korea] and it was always intended to be a high-performance brand for Hyundai. I’m not certain who came up with the idea originally because I was still at BMW then. But to be honest, when I first went to Hyundai my brief was to develop the N project, and I thought the Namyang reference didn’t really mean anything to anyone outside Hyundai. So quite soon I came up with a more focused meaning that ties in with our test centre at the Nürburgring, and now N stands for both Namyang and the Nürburgring. At the same time I pushed really hard to make sure the products would be completely different to the regular models. Now here we are a few years later and it’s going pretty well.
Now N is in the market, what have you learned, what would you do differently, and how does N grow from here?
We’ve learned a lot, obviously, and we are continuing to learn all the time. You never stop. I think we’ve got it pretty right so far and I will keep pushing and pushing to make sure we do it even better in the future. The only regret I have is that we didn’t start this whole thing 20 years ago. I can’t imagine where we’d be right now if we had! But that’s the thing, it’s the future that’s the most exciting part of the N brand. We’re still only just at the beginning.
What new models are in the pipeline at the moment, and will you make even more focused N cars in future?
We have a lot of new models both in development and in planning. The N brand will, I believe, grow even faster over the next five years than it has over the first five. But I can’t really talk about any of those models just yet because I’m not allowed to! Except maybe for the new eight-speed DCT that will go into the i30 N next year. And you already know about the lightweight i30 N we’re doing [the Project C], but this will only be in left-hand drive for the German market and available in limited numbers. But look, these cars are still just the beginning. There is a lot more to come in the next five years, and yes, some of the cars will be even more focused on the enthusiast.
Now that it’s established, how has N been received internally? Is it regarded as a success and do the cars make money for Hyundai?
A few months ago we realised the i30 N accounted for 28 per cent of all i30 sales in Germany last year. I was absolutely amazed, especially considering what the original sales forecasts for the N cars were. Yesterday I was told it’s now 34 per cent. That’s incredible. And I believe the proportion is only slightly smaller in the UK. These are numbers way, way beyond what anyone at Hyundai expected. So yes, you could say N has been received quite well internally! And yes, it does make good money for the company.
Has the development of future N models changed since the launch of the first cars?
N is evolving all the time. It’s a brand that will grow and expand much more quickly in the future. We change things all the time at Hyundai – this is one of the great things about the company because it’s family owned and we can react and change stuff much faster than other big car companies, depending on what we want to do and where we think the market might be going. This flexibility is absolutely key to giving Hyundai an advantage.
Is there a financial limit on cars within the N brand, or is the sky the limit?
All N cars need to be sensibly priced relative to whatever rivals they are in competition with. But as you’ll see in the near future, there are no specific financial limits to what kind of cars we will make. If I think it’s the right time to make a mid-engined N car that can rival a Porsche, and when we think it’s the right time to make that car, we will make it. It’s that simple. Maybe the powertrain might be a bit different to a conventional Porsche’s, but philosophically there are no limits. As I say, we really are just at the beginning.
Tesla’s next-gen Model Y from Giga Berlin aims to redefine ‘German engineering’
Tesla’s next-generation Model Y from Giga Berlin in Germany may redefine “German engineering.” A Tweet from CEO Elon Musk shows the company aims to improve build quality down to the micron, a unit of measurement that is equivalent to one-thousandth of a millimeter.
“German engineering” is a phrase that has been around for decades and commonly refers to the precision and accuracy that German products are known for. In the automotive industry’s history, German vehicles have highly been regarded as the most luxurious, highest quality cars that money can buy. In the early years of industry and engineering, Germany had the best machines and the most advanced processes for building basically anything, but cars were the specialty. Strict standards and an attitude that aimed toward perfection made German vehicles the cream of the crop in the automotive industry.
This theory still holds true in today’s industry in many ways. While other companies and other regions have highly effective processes for vehicle manufacturing, Germany still has a certain mystique about it. With brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, three of the most luxurious brands in the automotive market today, German engineering still holds a high standard.
However, Tesla has plans to reinvent the wheel when speaking about the term “German engineering.” In the last 18-or-so months since Elon Musk announced that Tesla’s first European Gigafactory would be in Germany, many developments have hinted toward Giga Berlin being the most advanced and most sophisticated factory that Tesla has in its arsenal. From a new, world-class paint facility to some of the most accurate automated machinery on the planet, Tesla is pulling out all the stops to keep up with Germany’s best brands.
In a Tweet earlier today, Musk said that Tesla is aiming for “extreme precision” with the next-gen Model Y. The company will aim for microns of accuracy, not millimeters, as Tesla aims to continue refining its manufacturing processes to make some of the highest-quality vehicles on Earth.
Aiming for extreme precision with next gen Model Y – microns, not millimeters
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 18, 2021
In the past, Tesla has been criticized for poor build quality with some of its vehicles. Some owners have highlighted panel gaps or paint quality issues with their vehicles, which has led to an overwhelming misconception that Tesla produces lackluster vehicles. The truth is that all vehicle manufacturers have issues with build quality from time to time. Things as simple as an increased production rate can affect the quality of a vehicle. Some, however, like automotive veteran Sandy Munro, have stated that Tesla’s build quality has improved significantly over the years. Munro went from highly critical of the Model 3 during a teardown several years ago to overwhelmingly impressed with the new builds of the car.
“This car has improved significantly,” Munro said. “The paint is great; it’s very impressive.”
The accuracy that Tesla is aiming for with the next-gen all-electric Model Y crossover is extremely precise. A micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter, so it’s a unit that is not necessarily visible to the human eye. If Tesla can refine its manufacturing lines in Berlin to reach this level, the definition of German engineering may once again be reconfigured to include Tesla’s near-perfect build quality.
Don’t Overlook this Simple Retention Tactic: Put Today’s and Tomorrow’s Customers in Need of Auto…
Sending out service reminders via e-mail or text, making follow-up calls, mailing postcards, scheduling next visits at the time of car delivery — there are many tactics automotive service-repair businesses can use to retain customers. But one simple tactic is often overlooked: empowerment.
The customers of today, and tomorrow, live in a digital world where they’re empowered by fast access to information. And they make quick buying decisions based on that information. For example, think about the last time you searched for a product or service on a major retailer’s website and made a buying decision quickly based on the information that was presented to you.
This shopping experience has become the new normal as the pandemic has drastically expanded the range of digital consumers far beyond millennials and Gen Z. All generations are now confirmed online shoppers.
So, what does this mean for automotive service-repair businesses?
In order to retain the customers of today and tomorrow, automotive service-repair facilities should be offering them the online shopping experience they’ve come to expect. For starters, that means communicating with customers in the ways they’re most comfortable with on their own timetable.
Text messaging has become universally popular because it’s quick and convenient, providing consumers added control over their time. It’s also, in part, what makes digital engagement tools like Openbay Otis so uniquely powerful.
Otis serves as a virtual service advisor that appears on a shop’s website as a smiling icon that says, “Hi. Need help? We’re online now if you have questions.” Visitors type in a question or select from a menu of options. Otis — which is powered by artificial intelligence, or AI — then engages visitors in a text-style conversation.
It’s similar to the way Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or Google Assistant provide quick answers to commonly asked questions.
Otis can deliver price estimates for mechanical service and repair nearly instantly and book an appointment, too. Otis also has a full tire catalog that will generate tire options, pricing and installation fees based on vehicle year, make and model (and tire size too).
Roughly 35% of Otis conversations take place outside normal business hours. Otis gathers and records all information from each conversation. If necessary, service advisors can then follow up using the visitor’s preferred method of communication — a phone call, text or e-mail.
Otis eliminates the need for site visitors to navigate a shop’s website, search through menus or fill out forms as they look for answers to their questions. Instead, they’re able to get the information they want when they want it and how they want it. In other words, putting them in the driver’s seat.
Otis installs on your website in minutes and it’s easy to use.
Retaining customers starts with time-honored essentials: solid mechanical service using quality parts, good value, a comfortable experience, great communication and a personal touch. And businesses that are able to level up by allowing customers to drive their own experience — using automated digital engagement tools like Otis, for example — are poised to earn more customer loyalty now and into the future.
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Tesla Cybertruck beats F-150 Lightning and Hummer EV in US electric truck survey
The Ford F-150 Lightning might be an extension of America’s best-selling workhorse and the GMC Hummer EV might be the electric iteration of a gas-guzzling monster, but it appears that the US electric pickup market is already looking towards its upcoming favorite. As per the results of a survey among US car buyers, it is the Tesla Cybertruck that stands to be the country’s most popular all-electric pickup truck.
The survey, which was aimed at determining consumers’ sentiment on electric cars, was conducted by automotive research and shopping website CarGurus. The survey was conducted online, and it involved respondents that were balanced in terms of key demographics in alignment with the US census. The results of the study were published in March 2021.
The respondents of the study were asked a variety of questions, one of which inquired if they were considering several electric trucks. The Cybertruck proved to be the most popular electric truck among the survey’s respondents, with 31% noting that they would consider the angular, brutalist steel truck. In comparison, 28% said that they would consider the Ford F-150 Lightning and 16% stated that they would consider the GMC Hummer EV.
Interestingly enough, the Cybertruck proved even more popular among respondents who were most likely to adopt electric vehicles. Among those who plan to own an EV within the decade, 40% stated that they were interested in the Tesla Cybertruck. This was quite impressive considering that 32% were interested in the Ford F-150 Lightning and only 17% noted that they were interested in the Hummer EV.
The Tesla Cybertruck may be controversial due to its appearance and the fact that it is made by a company that has never produced a pickup truck in the past, but its potential is vast. Since its debut in late 2019, the Cybertruck has become an icon of sorts, with the vehicle proving very popular online. This was hinted at by Elon Musk in the past, when he noted that the demand for the Cybertruck has been very encouraging so far.
“I have never seen actually such a level of demand at this — we’ve never seen anything like it. I think we will make about as many as we can sell for many years. So — as many — we’ll sell as many as we can make. It’s going to be pretty nuts. So, and I think actually, the product is better than people realize even (if) they don’t have enough information to realize just the awesomeness of it, it’s just great,” Musk said in Tesla’s Q4 2019 earnings call.
The results of CarGurus’ survey could be viewed below.
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McLaren Artura: What’s Hiding Under The Skin
The Artura may seem just like yet another McLaren supercar with a familiar design but it’s much more than that under the skin. It’s actually the brand’s first model to ride on the new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA), which can be best described as a complex carbon fiber puzzle consisting of more than 500 single pieces of carbon combined into 72 pre-forms. And that’s just the monocoque, which is a small piece of the big picture.
The Woking-based supercar manufacturer has released additional tech details about the Artura, following the car’s official debut in February this year. The lengthy press release focuses on the lightweight construction of the hybrid super with interesting details such as the electrical harness, which is 10 percent lighter than the harness in a 720S. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, with the final result being that the Artura weighs in at 3,303 pounds (or 3,075 pounds dry) despite its hybrid powertrain. To put that number into perspective, the 720S Coupe weighs 3,167 lbs.
McLaren is also very proud of its all-new V6 engine. Designed and built from the ground up, the 3.0-liter unit is very compact in dimensions thanks to a short overall design and turbochargers positioned centrally within the 120-degree V of the cylinder banks. The compact V6 leaves more room in the engine bay for cooling and weighs just 353 pounds, around 110 pounds lighter than McLaren’s older V8.
The combustion engine is supported by an electric motor located within the transmission bell housing. It generates 94 horsepower (70 kilowatts) and 166 pound-feet (225 Newton-meters) of torque for a grand total of 671 hp (500 kW) and 593 lb-ft (804 Nm). The peak torque is reached at around 2,200-2,500 rpm, when the two power sources reach their maximum potential. With a power-to-weight ratio of 481 hp/ton, the Artura has the third-best coefficient in McLaren’s lineup behind just the Elva and Senna.
Building on a winning formula, the Artura also uses a new multi-link rear suspension design that delivers significant dynamic advantages. For example, the lower wishbone is divided in two, while the track control arm is positioned in front of the rear axle rather than behind it as on previous McLarens. As a result, the rear toe stiffness is approximately 75 percent higher than in the 600LT.
Last but not least, the Pirelli tires of the Artura use a Bluetooth sensor attached to the inner side of the tire, constantly gathering data about the tire’s temperatures and pressure. This allows the supercar to be McLaren’s first car with a Track mode in which you can set up the tire temperatures on the system for monitoring purposes.
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