Talking About the Tucson

Mike O’Brien, vice president, Corporate & Product Planning, for Hyundai Motor America knows that the compact utility space is not only crowded—with the likes of the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, and Jeep Cherokee—but that the demand for vehicles of this type are growing as the desire for sedans is decreasing.

Mike O’Brien, vice president, Corporate & Product Planning, for Hyundai Motor America knows that the compact utility space is not only crowded—with the likes of the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, and Jeep Cherokee—but that the demand for vehicles of this type are growing as the desire for sedans is decreasing.

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And he notes that there are a variety of reasons why this is the case. For one, people don’t necessary have as much space to park their vehicles as they once did when there were sprawling suburbs. Some people are living in more urban settings. Some people are living in suburbs where it is more like a condo development than an array of McMansions.

For another, while people used to have more than one type of vehicle in their garages—say a car for everyday use and a van to pack the family off to church on Sunday—this has given way to a situation where they’re doing more with one vehicle, period.

So they’re looking for something that’s compact. They’re looking for something capable.

But there’s one more thing, O’Brien points out on this edition of “Autoline After Hours”: Many people are going from sedans to crossovers, so they expect the same levels of amenities and comforts.

Which leads to a situation wherein someone walks into a dealership and sees a sedan, checks the sticker, then takes a look at a crossover and checks out its price.

Nowadays, they’re pretty close. So the person might think that it makes a whole lot more sense to get something more for their money, which leads to the crossover boom.

O’Brien is accompanied in the studio by the all-new 2016 Tucson, Hyundai’s compact crossover. This, O’Brien explains, is the result of a global product development program. The exterior design comes out of Europe. The interior design was done in California. Production is being performed in Korea.

And that’s one reason why there is an above-segment execution: O’Brien says that in order to meet the market demands in Europe, where the vehicle is at a higher segment level than is ordinarily considered to be the case in the U.S. market, they had to make the Tucson more sophisticated in terms of design and execution.

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In addition to that Tucson, there is another that O’Brien talks about: the fuel cell Tucson that they’ve had on the market for more than a year. (The day O’Brien is on the show is October 8, which is sometimes abbreviated 10.08, and it so happens that 1.008 is the atomic weight of hydrogen, so October 8 is now celebrated as National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day—perhaps not widely celebrated, but here’s betting that Sheldon Cooper and his friends would be busting out the party hats and streamers.)

O’Brien explains that they think fuel cell vehicles have a bright future thanks in large part to the fact that the technology is ready scalable and consequently suitable for a number of vehicle sizes and architectures.

What’s more, he points out that many auto makers have gotten to the point with their fuel cell developments that it is now mainly a matter of productionizing the technology so that it can be mass produced—the experimenting is over, now it is time for building them.

(Yes, he acknowledges that there needs to be a more extensive hydrogen fueling infrastructure, but when you have the cars, you’ll get the stations.)

O’Brien talks to Richard Truett of Automotive News, Henry Payne of the Detroit News and me on the show.

And then Truett, Payne and I talk about a number of other developments, from the recent experiment in Paris where 30% of the city was car-free for a day to the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, which the three of us had to opportunity to drive.

You can see it all here: