Hyundai Takes Aim At Bypassing VW Passat?

In Germany and Japan, no competitor has been able to match the VW Passat. But Korean carmaker Hyundai is taking aim at the midsized market. A German car reviewer takes a spin.

Hyundai i40
Hyundai i40
Thomas Geiger

The bosses at Volkswagon and Toyota should watch out. In recent years, Korean carmaker Hyundai has become - along with its subsidary Kia - the fifth largest car manufacturer in the world. And on the wave of this success, Hyundai is now poised to take on a new opponent.

The car that will lead this attack has a very simple name: the i40, but the competition better take notice, says Allan Rushforth, head of the Korean company's European operations. "This is our first serious car in the so called D-segment."

D-segment means mid-sized car ("large family" in Europe), and officially, the i40 will be positioned against cars like the Toyota Avensis or the Mazda 6. "But in this segment, there is only true one yardstick: the VW Passat," says chief engineer Axel Honisch.

It's the Passat, the bestseller from Wolfsburg, that Hyundai engineers had in mind when they developed the i40's suspension, steering and gearbox. It was the measure for material selection, quality, and size. "Of course we are not the best in every category, but in all disciplines we come pretty damn close," says Honiball.

The i40's stand-alone qualities show how important Hyundai's success in Europe is to the company. The car doesn't follow the U.S. model (like its predecessor the Sonata), or the typical car from Korea. Instead, the entirely new car was created at the German Development Center in Rüsselsheim, with its own technology and unique design.

On a test ride through the Taunus, the 4.77 meter long car has a smooth ride, is quiet on the road, and still picks up quickly through uphill curves. Later, on the highway, we have a chance to check out the dashboard. The consoles are stylish, decorated with plenty of chrome, piano lacquer, leather, and brilliant displays akin to those of an iPad. This car has nothing to do with the plastic boxes of Hyundai's past.

For those willing to pay more than the 23,000-euro base price of the car, Hyundai will offer a number of extra comforts and handy features, including active parking guidance and xenon headlights.

Thanks to a 2.77-meter wheelbase and adjustable-angle seatbacks, the i40 also grants a surprising amount of comfort to backseat passengers. With a whopping 553 liters of trunk space, the i40 hatchback's storage space grows to 1719 liters when the back seats are flipped forward. Though this is slightly smaller than the Passat, the i40 makes up for it with a much lower loading edge.

Even with i40s drive keeps up with the German competition. Hyundai's new 1.7-liter diesel engine is available in either 115 or 136 hp, along with two gasoline engines of 1.6 and 2.0-liter displacement, and 135 or 177 hp.

Rushforth's official sales target for the car is relatively modest: "60,000 vehicles a year, a place in the top six in its class, ahead of the Mazda 6 and the Toyota Avensis." It is nearly impossible to threaten the Passat on its home turf, but in the United States, where both VW and Hyundai are visiting players, the competition looks very different. In the U.S., registrations of the Volkswagon model came in at 12,500 for the entire year of 2010, while Hyundai has been selling over 16,000 Sonatas -- per month.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - KCB

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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