SEOUL, South Korea—The electric sports car that Hyundai is developing with Rimac will be a "game-changer" for the South Korean auto maker and will influence the way it creates cars, said Hyundai's head of European design, Thomas Beurkle.
Hyundai Motor said May 14 that it was investing $89 million to take an undisclosed percentage stake in Croatian electric sportscar developer Rimac.
Two models will result from the investment: a sports car for Hyundai's N performance subbrand and a fuel cell car, likely for Kia.
The new sports car will be a benchmark that would "influence the thinking in the engineering teams in the design teams in the marketing teams," Beurkle said at a Hyundai U.K. press event on Wednesday.
"You could say it is a marketing instrument on the outside but it's also a game changer on the inside," he said.
The design of the car needs to make it very clear it has a different drivetrain, rather have onlookers think it's powered by a big combustion engine, Beurkle said.
"We have to speak to people who want to be advanced, who want to lead in terms of taste and style and also being less conventional," he said. "It will be a real challenge for the design department to work on this."
Beurkle said no decisions had been made as to which of Hyundai's design centers globally would design the car, although he pointed out that traditionally its studios in Europe, Korea and the U.S. compete to have their design picked for new models.
He would not be drawn on whether the Rimac/Hyundai car would be more a hypercar priced more toward Ferrari territory in the manner of the Ford GT or would be more attainable.
Rimac is best known for electric hypercars, including its recently unveiled C2, which produces about 2,000hp.
The Croatian auto maker also has a partnership with Automobili Pininfarina, owned by the Mahindra group of India, to supply the high-performance electric powertrain and battery technology to the Pininfarina Battista, a supercar unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.
Rimac walso was responsible for adding an electric drivetrain to the classic Jaguar E-type used at last year's wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and also is supplying the battery-electric system for Aston Martin's Valkyrie hybrid electric supercar.
Last year Porsche bought a 10 percent stake in Rimac.
Hyundai was impressed with Rimac's work balancing high-performance with the need to keep battery weight down while ensuring a usable range.
"That's the big obstacle on performance EVs at the moment," said Tyrone Johnson, the ex-Ford performance engineer recently hired as head of vehicle development at Hyundai Europe. "Rimac is doing things are a bit novel with respect the amount of energy you can store and the mass of these vehicles. That's part of the reason for the cooperation," he said.
Hyundai plans to offer 44 electrified models by 2025, targeting annual sales of about 1.67 million units. Kia aims to have 19 electrified vehicles in its range by 2022, comprising six full-electric cars, six plug-in hybrids, six full hybrids and one fuel cell vehicle.