Special Coverage

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CHICAGO – Although some may criticize its vehicles for looking too much like competitors, Joel Piaskowski, Hyundai Motor America’s design chief, doesn’t see many resemblances.

“Nobody owns a grille shape other than BMW, or Pontiac perhaps,” he tells Ward’s in an interview here at the Chicago auto show when asked about similarities between the new Hyundai Elantra’s front fascia and that of the current-generation Toyota Corolla.

“It’s what you do with those shapes to make them unique for your own brand – what accents those shapes; the materials you use; the textures you use,” he says.

Piaskowski says Hyundai still is trying to find its character, as it is a relatively young brand with not many vehicles from the past to draw on for inspiration.

“You compare (Hyundai) with brands that are 75, 100-years old,” he says. “We don’t have a history of products we can pull from to say, ‘That’s our identity.’”

But he says this can be a positive, as other auto makers with more storied pasts can be “handcuffed to a certain design DNA.”

Of future Hyundais, Piaskowski says, “There’s going to be lot of familiarity in some of the surface vocabulary and the graphics of the car. It won’t be a cookie-cutter-like application that you see on a lot of European cars. There’ll be familiarity in the sense of the family.”

For instance, certain elements such as a headlamp shape may be shared across the lineup, but “the forms around it might be different,” he says.

Meanwhile, Piaskowski mostly is mum on the BH concept car Hyundai will display at April’s New York auto show.

The vehicle hints at the upcoming rear-wheel-drive sedan Hyundai will bring to the U.S. in the next year.

The BH largely was crafted in South Korea, where it will be sold as the next-generation Hyundai Dynasty.

Piaskowski does say the vehicle won’t change for the U.S. market, but a few elements, such as a leather-wrapped instrument panel, will be exclusive to Dynastys sold in South Korea.