For a large part of the 20th century the good folk at Hyundai were quite content to occupy themselves by knocking out buildings, ships and heavy industrial equipment. They merrily toiled away until one day a man from Ford came along, bathed in a glow of strange light, and asked if they would be interested in helping him build a mysterious and exciting product called a “Cortina”. This made the people at Hyundai very excited and for many years they diligently went about their duties; but deep down a restless feeling grew that while screwing a Yankee product together was all very well, true satisfaction could only come from building their own car. A Korean car.
So they did – launched in 1975, it was called the Pony and it was an abomination.
Admittedly, by recruiting the team responsible for the Morris Marina to develop the Pony they hadn’t exactly set the foundations to cover themselves in glory, but even from this low starting point they managed to plumb some new depths. The design was staid, the build quality abysmal and while it was never designed to be a performance vehicle, fat children on roller skates could get up hills faster.
Any normal person would have stepped back, looked at the misery their best efforts had bestowed on the world and contemplated whether their next move should involve a noose; but the people at Hyundai were clearly not normal. They simply shrugged, moved on and made the Pony II, which was also terrible. And the Sonata. And the Excel.
Literally everything Hyundai – whose name became an acronym for “Hope You Understand Nothing’s Driveable And Inexpensive” – touched turned to crap and yet with unflinching determination they soldiered on and today, against all the odds, have come good big time.
For those whose association with Hyundai started and finished with the wheezing grief-box their grandparents used to own, may I suggest a trip to your local dealership to see just how much things have moved on? The entire ‘i’ range of vehicles is good looking, well-specced and nice to drive, making Hyundai serious players across the market – a situation that will only get better when they roll out the flash new Veloster.
So if you’re looking at purchasing a new car some way down the line, then start saving now and when the time is right you’d be well advised to consider a Geely.
Having just experienced the Geely MK I can say without doubt that, by the standards of 2011, it is a car every bit as woeful as the original Pony. Yes, it’s cheap – really cheap actually – but I’d rather do a parachute jump with a Pak ‘n Save carrier bag than have a crash in one and the only thing I’ve ever discovered that was built with less passion came with the sales line “Would you like fries with that?”
Yet I also see a company that is likely to have the same fervent determination to succeed that resulted in Hyundai’s roses blossoming from the original dung heap. Certainly if you’re prepared to reach down the back of the sofa to find enough spare change to buy Volvo, then you’re nailing your colours to the mast as having some pretty serious aspirations in the motoring world. In fact I’ll be prepared to bet that 36 years from now, the Geelys of the future will be held in the same high regard we currently have for the excellent new i20.
Of course if you’re looking for some new transport right now then you’re probably better sticking to a Hyundai or, if cash is particularly tight, a bus.