Robo cars ‘won't

spoil driving fun'

Kia Optima Sportstwagon, side, testing at Namyang
Kia Optima Sportstwagon, front, testing at Namyang
Kia Optima Sportstwagon, rear, testing at Namyang
Kia Optima Sportstwagon, front, wet testing at Namyang
Kia Optima Sportstwagon, side, wet testing at Namyang
Kia Optima Sportstwagon, rear, wet testing at Namyang
Albert Biermann, with Kia Optima Sportswagon
Albert Biermann, with Kia sign
Kia test track, Namyang, sign
Kia test track, Namyang, aerial view
Kia Soul, autonomous vehicle development
Kia Soul, autonomous vehicle development, controls
Kia Soul, autonomous vehicle development, interior
Kia Soul, autonomous vehicle development, interior, testing
Albert Biermann, head of high performance vehicle development, Hyundai Kia
Peter Schreyer, head of design, Hyundai Kia

THE arrival of cars that can drive themselves will not mean the end of motoring for pleasure.

That's the view of the man who is tasked with developing the next generation of models for Kia and Hyundai.

Albert Biermann, who helped create BMW's legendary M performance cars, says that the advent of so-called autonomous vehicles will not mean the cars of the future will be all the same.

"Chassis development will not stop because of autonomous cars," said Mr Biermann, who became head of high performance vehicle development for the Korean brands 18 months ago.

Speaking at the companies' top secret research and development facility at Namyang close to the Korean capital Seoul, Mr Biermann echoed the words of Ferdinand Porsche who famously said the last car in the world will be a sports car.

Mr Biermann said that despite the shift towards ‘robo cars' there would still be a demand for conventional models with the driver completely in control.

"The key part is enjoying the drive and cars which do that will be around for many years to come," said Mr Biermann.

"They might turn into a hobby but they will survive. There's so much fun driving a car that will not go away."

Since joining Kia and Hyundai - who like all other major car firms are making vehicles safer with automated systems such as lane departure warnings and blind spot monitors - Mr Biermann has set about improving the Korean cars' vehicle dynamics, especially for European conditions.

New test tracks have been opened at Namyang to fine tune the next wave of Kia and Hyundai models to satisfy differing driving tastes.

The facility includes a high speed track and a wet handling circuit to allow test drivers to fine tune suspension and steering characteristics.

Both Kia and Hyundai already have factories in Europe where cars such as the cee'd, Sportage and Tucson are built and tested on European roads.

"The way we are moving forward in Europe is clear on the driving side to make it more safe and fun," said Mr Biermann.

He added that the next generation of cars from the two brands, which include hybrids such as the Kia Niro and the Hyundai Ioniq as well as the sporty-looking new Optima Sportswagon from Kia would feature a ‘GT approach'.

Mr Biermann is the second high profile German auto engineer who has been appointed to mastermind Hyundai Kia's development.

He follows former Audi design guru Peter Schreyer who has transformed the way the two companies' cars look since he joined the fast-growing Korean group in 2006.

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