Which names come to mind when you think of high performance, muscular supercars? If Hyundai’s N-Performance wing has its way, Hyundai will become a company that you name right alongside heavyweights like Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar and Maserati.

Hyundai launched sales in the US in 1986 and debuted with great fanfare. Reviews were positive, and consumers were eager to sample the wares of this new Korean automaker. Hyundai’s reputation suffered somewhat due to cost-cutting measures in the late 1980s. As a result of these measures, U.S. sales of the brand dropped.

From Break-Up to Make-Up

Many Americans were left scratching their heads, wondering what happened with an automaker that started out with so much promise. However, they weren’t left to wonder long before Hyundai made the necessary mid-course correction to get them strongly back in the game. In the mid-2000s, Hyundai regained America’s trust with the Hyundai Advantage 10-year 100,000-mile warranty offered with all new Hyundai purchases. Consumers flocked back to Hyundai and it was clear that all was forgiven, as Americans turned their backs on Honda, Ford and Toyota in favor of new offerings from Hyundai. These new models assured consumers they had clearly truly embraced their “new thinking, new possibilities” slogan. Hyundai has brought many new models to market in the past 15 years that have exceeded expectation, including models incorporating hybrid and turbocharging technologies.

An Indelible Link to Pop Culture

Hyundai’s popularity explosion in the last decade has already allowed them to really stretch their wings and broaden their horizons. The company became an indelible part of pop culture in 2015 when it debuted the innovative Gran Turismo Vision GT concept car, which would be used in the highly successful Gran Turismo video game franchise to much acclaim. Additionally, Hyundai announced its intent to manufacture a new line of performance cars dubbed the “N” brand.

Hyundai Vision GT Concept

Hyundai Vision GT Concept

Lifting the Veil of Secrecy on a New Division

While the Vision GT was strictly a concept car, the N brand was a new division, a performance division similar to BMW’s M Group. Hyundai execs kept details close to the chest throughout much of 2015, dropping the occasional tidbit designed to fan the flames of interest piqued by the promise of this exciting new line. It wasn’t until the 2016 North American International Auto Show held in Detroit this past week that Hyundai VP of Product Planning Mike O’Brien lifted the veil on the up and coming new brand.

O’Brien reinforced Hyundai’s decision to move forward with the new N brand, assuring the international audience it’s a go, and a new supercar designed to compete with Ferrari is in the works. He indicated Hyundai intends to use a halo or flagship car to allow the Hyundai brand to enter the supercar arena. He further indicated that they had brought in Albert Biermann from the BMW M line, who has a considerable skillset in his wheelhouse, to focus on the new division.

Master Engineer Tapped to Develop the Brand Image

Beirmann has headed up Hyundai’s performance line for over 2 years and is crucial factor in the evolving brand’s image. A master engineer, Beirmann fielded questions at the Detroit Auto Show about the future of the N brand and its promise of a new supercar. He indicated the new supercar would likely be powered by a turbocharged V8 and that Hyundai was currently developing their own hybrid system that would compete with top tier supercars such as the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder.

A 5 Year Roadmap

Beirmann cautioned the audience that there were other models in the works ahead of the supercar in terms of development and design. He referred to a five-year roadmap that included a car from their Genesis sub-brand. He stated the first N car should be hitting the road in two years, and that car is expected to be the Hyundai i30, likely to target Volkswagen’s popular GTI hatchback. Look for the i30 to arrive at dealerships in 2018.

Hyundai is also rumored to be working on another Genesis car, the G70, a rear wheel drive sports coupe that will likely compete with the likes of heavyweights like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro and the BMW 4 Series. The N line division is expected to offer their own version of the G70, a sports tuned variant utilizing Hyundai’s current 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V6. The engine currently runs at 365 hp, but once tuned for the N line, will likely go somewhere around 425hp.

It’s clear that Hyundai has stepped up their game with the intention of staking a serious claim in the world’s high performance luxury car market. While the concept that the Korean automaker could build a Ferrari killing supercar might seem far-fetched, it’s clear that they’ve moved beyond mere dreams and aspirations and into the realm of becoming a major player on the high performance stage.