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The ‘N’ is for fast. Hyundai announces performance sub-brand

BMW has M. Cadillac has V. Lexus has F. Now, Hyundai has N.

Hyundai announced its new N performance sub-brand, which will produce more exciting versions of the company’s cars. Carmakers must be running out of letters.

According to Autocar, Hyundai won’t release any details on its N-cars until next year, but it seems likely that they will be hot rod versions of existing models. That’s the model pioneered by BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG that carmakers have aggressively latched onto in the past decade.

N most likely stands for Namyang, Korea, where Hyundai has a research and development center that will be doing much of the work on upcoming performance cars. Coincidentally, it also stands for Nurburgring, the German racetrack that has become the yardstick for production cars. Hyundai recently opened a technical center there, by the way.

However, N will be headquartered in Alzenau, Germany, the home of the Hyundai Motorsports World Rally Championship (WRC) team. In fact, the first N-badged car won’t be a production car; it’ll be the next Hyundai i20 WRC car.

A rally connection has worked well in the past for companies like Audi, Mitsubishi, and Subaru, giving them credibility and giving enthusiasts great cars such as the Audi coupe quattro, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Subaru Impreza WRX.

If Hyundai takes that approach, a WRC-inspired i20 seems like a good bet. That won’t help American enthusiasts, though, because the i20 isn’t sold here.

Hyundai has made occasional attempts to build fun cars, in the form of the Genesis Coupe and Veloster Turbo, but overall its products are known for being competent yet staid.

Maybe a more comprehensive approach to performance will give Hyundai’s cars what the one thing they currently lack: a sense of fun.

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