[EDITORIALS]Hyundai is the futureThere was both good and bad news for Hyundai Motor this weekend. The good news was that its first plant in America, with an annual capacity of 300,000 cars, opened in Montgomery, Alabama on Friday. Using it as a foothold, Hyundai plans to boost its American market share from 4.1 percent to the level of the Big Five automakers. With the plant, Hyundai is hoping to lessen the 2 trillion won ($2 billion) financial burden caused by changing exchange rates and to overcome trade friction with Washington.
The bad news was that Chung Se-young, former Hyundai Motor president, passed away. Mr. Chung was behind the birth of the Pony, the legendary first Hyundai car, and other brands such as the Sonata, Elantra and Avante were his products as well. He led the company for 32 years, from its birth to being the seventh largest carmaker in the world. He used to say, “The most worthwhile thing in my life was that I contributed to making Hyundai Motor recognized in the world.” We hope his accomplishments will be followed by success of the new plant in Alabama.
Korea’s automobile industry has succeeded in entering the world market. But the world automobile market is like a battlefield. Even such big companies as GM and Ford are in a precarious state and Japanese competitors like Toyota and Honda stand in our way. It is predicted that only a Big Five, or even a Big Three, will survive.
Hyundai’s prospects are not all that bright. Comparing performance in 2003, Hyundai’s sales per worker were 30 percent of Toyota’s and its profit was only 24 percent. But Hyundai’s labor union seems not to mind. It demands a reduced workweek, an extension of the retirement age and the right to decide plans for new overseas plants and development of new cars between labor and management.
The future of our country depends on the automobile industry, along with semiconductors and mobile phones. We can’t affort a failure in them. Hyundai must renew its determination on this occasion. It can’t avoid competing with the world’s top makers. To survive, it must maintain the quality of its products, and labor and management should cooperate. The late Mr. Chung wrote in his autobiography, “Hyundai must be reborn from a Pony to a fleet steed.” We all wish the same.