You might not have known it, but Korean automaker Hyundai has been racing in the U.S. for nearly a decade, using cars like the Hyundai Veloster and Genesis Coupe for rallycross and drifting events. Hyundai’s also been pretty successful with them, too, taking podium finishes with each car under the stewardship of drivers like Rhys Millen.
Sure, it’s no NASCAR or IndyCar, but Hyundai had carved out a niche for itself in motorsports and was seemingly expanding as it added sportier cars to its lineup. That effort has ended today, however, as Hyundai announced it was pulling out of competitive motorsports in the U.S. after this year.
What’s baffling about this announcement is that it comes after the automaker made a big brouhaha in Times Square with a racing video game phone app for the 2012 Hyundai Veloster late last year and is planning to introduce a concept car at SEMA next month called the Genesis Coupe R-Spec Track Edition (shown above), gussied up with performance parts and a hotted-up engine. Clearly the often ultra-conservative automaker is sending mixed messages about what it’s trying to do and who it’s trying to attract with its marketing efforts.
Rumors also persist for a higher-performance Genesis Coupe coming out to compete against the Mustang GTs and Camaro SSs of the world, but we’ll believe that when we see it.
If it’s any consolation, Hyundai will be re-entering the overseas World Rally Championship racing next season with its i20 hatchback, a car the size of our Hyundai Accent. It’ll share its turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with the Veloster Turbo, albeit boosted well beyond that car’s 201 horsepower. Perhaps Hyundai’s global management is refocusing its efforts there, as WRC is a much larger stage than the niche motorsports it currently campaigns cars in here in the U.S.
But, then, for an automaker as large as successful as Hyundai, it makes no sense to pull out of two sports that garner a large following of young enthusiasts—a market Hyundai is losing as the segment of cheap, sporty cars grows again. Hyundai’s official reasoning is that it wants to focus on its production cars and new introductions.
We can’t help but think there was a lot more politicking than that involved, especially with someone as adamant about sports cars as North American Hyundai CEO John Krafcik running the show. We’ll keep you updated as we find out more.
Sources: Rhys Millen, Hyundai