Albert Biermann’s Influence Goes Far Beyond Hyundai-Kia’s Performance Cars
Back in 2015, Albert Biermann, the head of BMW’s M division, made an odd decision. He left his job leading the development of high-performance German luxury cars to work for Hyundai Motor Group. At that time, Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis models were known for offering great value, but even the rear-wheel-drive models were a far cry from track-focused M cars Biermann had previously worked on. Today, his decision makes more sense because he’s had the opportunity to guide the development of fun-to-drive models such as the Hyundai Veloster N, Kia Stinger, and Genesis G70. But Orth Hedrick, Kia’s head of product planning, says Biermann’s influence goes far beyond performance cars.
“I think the basic idea was to use his strong capabilities on the performance side, but that also influences all the engineers as far as testing and performance protocols go,” Hedrick said at the Detroit auto show. “We validated, based on his input, the Stinger on the Nürburgring, which Hyundai Motor Group had never done before, so we had to build an office and a presence there. And that course is so demanding that it forced an improvement in all of our validation parameters.”
Albert Biermann, head of testing and high-performance development for Hyundai Motor Group, speaking at the launch of the 2019 Genesis G70
“He also is teaching our engineers and our overall group, ‘Here are the key points that you need to pay attention to.’ Like structural rigidity, where the suspension contacts the body. ‘Here’s what you need to know,’” Hedrick continued. “It’s like a lot of little details that aren’t taught in engineering school but that he learned over the years working at BMW. It’s getting fed into the system, and it’s helping all of our vehicles overall.”
He went on to say that, in the few years before Biermann showed up, Kia had done a lot to improve the quality of the components it received from suppliers. But there’s more to developing a car than improving the quality of individual parts. “We have all these high-quality, highly durable parts, but getting all of [them] to work together in the right way takes time and effort. And that’s where he’s adding value to the equation is getting all those parts, the sum of those parts to really make the car come alive.”
2019 Kia Forte
If it sounds like Biermann is more of a big ideas guy, though, that’s not necessarily the case. Hedrick told us that Biermann’s background in kinematics means he understands how seemingly tiny changes can have a big impact. “He’s very, very keen on those small details, and moving things just a few millimeters on something that weighs 4,000 pounds makes a big difference. His experience is helping all of our engineers understand that that’s really important.”
Although we don’t expect the new Forte to drive exactly like the Stinger GT, especially on the track, don’t be surprised if Kia’s entire lineup soon drives and handles much better than you might expect.