Korean car giant Hyundai Motor has opened its first overseas big data center in the upcoming tech hub of Gui'an New Area, in southwest China's Guizhou Province, as the company looks to move past a year of poor sales figures and regain its crown as one of China's bestselling car brands.
Hyundai has already established its own "car cloud" in South Korea, as it looks to utilize self-driving technology and the Internet of Things to build an interconnected network of vehicles of the future.
According to Xinhua, citing the provincial commerce bureau, the center will provide data support for self-driving cars. The center will also work with China Unicom, one of China's largest telecom operators, to develop Internet-based, intelligent data exchange services tailored to the needs of Chinese customers.
Hyundai in 2016 established its roadmap for the future of car connectivity, with long-term plans that include boosting connectivity between various systems within vehicles, linking those systems to windshields to display information to the driver and eventually to enable high-speed communication between vehicles and their immediate surroundings – an important step in developing driverless vehicles.
Hyundai is also looking to use big data to allow remote maintenance of its vehicles via software updates, and is working with companies like Apple and Google to develop smartphone technology within its vehicles, moving on from Bluetooth technology to advances like projecting phone screens onto car windshields.
Hyundai's first big data center opened in Uiwang, South Korea, in 2013. But the decision to open its first overseas big data center in China – part of a planned future global network of centers around the world – is interesting for several reasons.
Moving beyond THAAD and 2017 struggles
A move to China is in many ways a no-brainer – the country is one of the world leaders in big data technology, and Hyundai's partnerships with China Unicom as well as Baidu (on in-car navigation and voice recognition technology) put it in good stead to spread its "computer-on-wheels" ethos across its biggest market.
However, Hyundai has struggled in China in 2017, with the effects of South Korea's decision to deploy the controversial THAAD missile system damaging sales for many Korean companies in the country.
Hyundai sales slumped by 65 percent in the second quarter, with the company forced to cut its targets for the year by almost 25 percent. A factory line halt earlier this month came after all four of Beijing Hyundai's production lines stopped operations for several days in late August, after suppliers claimed they had not been paid. Bloomberg also cited Hyundai's "sedan-heavy lineup" in the country and failure to adapt to the popularity of SUVs in the country as another reason for an alarming sales slide.
Men cylce past an advertising billboard for Hyundai cars opposite the plant of Hyundai Motor Co. in Beijing, China, August 30, 2017. /Reuters Photo
The move to modernize via big data in China by establishing a center in Gui'an can be seen as a move to regain Hyundai's previous foothold in the Chinese market – in 2016, it was the third-biggest car brand in the country.