Here’s an intriguing documentary on the early years of the Hyundai Motor Company, and how former Austin-Morris Managing Director, George Turnbull, spearheaded the creation of this car manufacturing giant in 1975 after leaving BL.
This episode of Panorama was shown in 1976, and shows what can be achieved by the best British manufacturing talent with the right financial backing and motivation.
Triumph man is the making of South Korean giant Hyundai
Hyundai is a motor manufacturing giant today. But be in no doubt – its foundations are British. Not only did former Austin-Morris Managing Director George Turnbull oversee the creation of the Hyundai Pony, but he picked British Engineers to develop the car and then set-up the production line to build it. It was even eased into business by British investment.
It came from modest beginnings. Chung Ju-Yung founded the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company in 1947, and became very big very quickly – but it wasn’t until 1967 that the company built its first car, a CKD version of the Ford Cortina. From these humble beginnings of building other people’s cars, Hyundai became hungry to build its own.
The company hired George Turnbull who, in turn, recruited a team which included Designer Kenneth Barnett, Engineers John Simpson and Edward Chapman, ex-BRM man John Crosthwaite as Chassis Engineer and Peter Slater (above) as Chief Development Engineer. Their plan was to design and build the Pony – Hyundai’s first car.
Learning from the mistakes of the past
George Turnbull said during the 1976 documentary: ‘The attitude to carmaking here is that it’s very much a team effort, and that’s the big difference between Korea and the UK.’ When put to him that the conditions in the factory, where workers were expected to build cars in temperatures of -7 degrees, he added, ‘I think by Western standards, this is not acceptable, but the philosophy is that people put on plenty of clothing, they work har, and they generate some of their own heat.’
Clearly, that approach to labour and manufacturing would never work in the UK. The Hyundai Pony was introduced in 1975 and went into full-scale production two years later. It sported Giugiaro styling and Mitsubishi powertrains, and owed a great deal in terms of its technical make-up to the Morris Marina, a car that Turnbull oversaw. But it improved on the Morris in many ways – certainly in manufacturing and quality terms.
Throughout the 1970s, Hyundai expanded and commenced exports to Europe. Follow-up products included the 1983 Stellar and the 1988 Sonata. In 1985, the company built its millionth car. Each subsequent model was closer in ability to its European rival, feeding the company’s constant expansion into the powerhouse that it is today…
Enjoy the video.