If you were female, lived in one of Australias major cities and went to university there in the 1990s, then odds are on you owned yourself the beloved Hyundai Excel. The little compact hatch, shaped like an over sized jellybean was the car of choice for female university attendees at the end of the century.
Panel beaters across the country rejoiced as you ran up the back of people at traffic lights or added a yellow pylon stripe to your car whilst trying to park at the local shopping centre. Mechanics profited from the little cars as they presented with a variety of problems that made mechanics quick cash and average technicians landed themselves with badges such as Hyundai Master Tech for simply knowing the way to fix Excel misfires, was to replace the plugs and leads.
The Hyundai Excel was the poverty pack of new cars. You could buy a brand new car and do your makeup at major intersections, whilst someone behind you tried the horn relay in their car trying to get you to pay attention to the lights changing, for around $12K. They were known to be a relatively low budget vehicle that people bought as a cheap run around. The quality of the vehicle was very average and it did not take long for the Korean made Excel to develop a reputation as a very average car. Even the modified car world that at the time was known for a “build what you want to build” mentality was unrelenting on those who chose to hot-up the Excel, and before long the halls of auto salon saw the Excel almost become extinct.
The result of this low budget vehicle was that in spite of their reputation for a rather ordinary car when it came to mechanical awesomeness, the car sold in massive figures. It was possibly one of the most popular cars in its time. The cheap purchase price and low running cost meant people loved to buy it. This in turn completely saturated the market with the name Hyundai and a few years later the second-hand market was crawling with Excels (some of which had misfires that master techs could not solve).
Even with a reputation as a mediocre car manufacturer the brand Hyundai became a brand we knew as readily as Holden and Toyota. I’m unsure if this was intentional on Hyundai’s part or not, but the brand awareness the Excel landed the car manufacturer was the perfect foundation for building a thriving car company on.
People involved in meetings around large board room tables spent a lot of time stroking their beards and realised the problem with the company was the reputation the vehicle had. The same level of mechanical reliability as a the Hindenburg was not a huge selling point.
Over the next few decades Hyundai on the back of the huge brand awareness gradually raised the bar on the quality of the product it was releasing. The Getz, the Accent and the Elantra all showed improvement. In more recent years the release 0f I20, I30 and the Santa Fe have impressed us. Granted the Hyundai is no Toyota or Mazda but throughout it all, the company has managed to pull itself out of the crappy car category without increasing the price tag greatly.
Hyundais are now a fairly good car in the market. When it comes to the value for money you spend on a new car, you can’t really go past them.