How Hyundai's big gamble in the '70s would be their ticket to success

When you look at Hyundai these days, their designs are some of the most radical out there. The South Korean automaker took off in the mid-'00s, challenging the Japanese and German establishment along the way. It wasn't that long ago when Hyundai was trying to find their footing in the automotive landscape, but they are now one of the biggest brands out there.

From subcompact hatchbacks to luxury crossovers, Hyundai's current product range is comprehensive. But if you turn back the clock to 1975, it was a very different time for them, and that was the time they launched its first-ever car. 

45 years ago, Hyundai launched their first car image

This was Hyundai's first car from 45 years ago, and it was also South Korea's first home-grown car. Before 1975, Hyundai was simply an assembler of Ford vehicles in South Korea, building cars such as the Cortina, Taunus, and Granada.

Hyundai's humble beginnings began with the Pony, and you wouldn't think it would be the start of one of the world's biggest automakers. Hyundai got ex-Morris engineers for development, and it had engines sourced from Mitsubishi. The Pony also had parts from the Ford Cortina. Giorgetto Giugiaro was in charge of designing it. Yes, the man who penned the iconic Delorean DMC-12 drew the first home-grown Korean car.

45 years ago, Hyundai launched their first car image

No, the Pony wasn't a big seller when sales commenced in 1975. It was an expensive car in its home market, and Hyundai also got its feet wet after exporting the Pony in Europe and Canada. Thankfully for the brand, sales eventually picked a few years after its introduction. The Pony would be Hyundai's only passenger car for seven years until it was joined by the Stellar in 1982.

45 years ago, Hyundai launched their first car image

While the Pony was never a massive seller outside of its home market, it had done its job. It proved Hyundai was capable of building and developing their cars. Sure, it wasn't easy for them in the early years, but it's like that for any auto manufacturer. The efforts of the Pony hasn't been forgotten by Hyundai, either. Recently, they made the 45 EV Concept which paid tribute to the humble Pony.

From selling thousands every year, Hyundai now ships them by the millions. In 2019, Hyundai sold over 4.4 million vehicles, and that's not even including Kia, which they acquired in 1998.

Looking back, it's incredible how Hyundai's global empire all began with a Pony.