Hyundai Leverages Its Past to Lead Future Innovations 

A look at the Pony, Korea’s first independently developed model

Hyundai Motor Company has been at the forefront of automobile technology, but its latest campaign doubles down on its core identity and heritage to guarantee the brand’s relevance and longevity.

The Hyundai Heritage project retraces the brand’s journey from the launch of its first independently developed model, the Pony, to the introduction of its newest model, the IONIQ 5. By revisiting the Pony’s legacy, Hyundai Motor Company aims to share its brand ethos grounded on humanity while leveraging its past success to present a new direction for future mobility.

“The Pony proves the founding chairman Ju-yung Chung’s belief in human potential while exemplifying the brand’s progressive and challenging spirit,” said Sungwon Jee, SVP and global CMO at Hyundai Motor Company. “By looking through the past, we try to shape our future.”

A desire for better

Hyundai’s vision of “Progress for Humanity” and its focus on people have always propelled the brand forward. Human-centric storytelling is used to share the Pony’s impact on people’s lives in two Heritage campaign films: “A Pony Tale,” which highlights a Pony owner’s enchanting journey with the car, and “The Next Chapter,” which takes viewers on a journey through the Pony’s rise to become a “cultural icon” alongside Hyundai’s ascent to global prominence.

“The Next Chapter” takes viewers back to the 1970s when Hyundai approached renowned automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro about developing its first independent model. Until then, the company had only overseen repairs and assemblies and Korea was still in a nascent phase of economic development.

“The Pony’s introduction was especially meaningful in that it was an outcome of a project independently pursued by a developing Asian nation without support from global companies dominating the market at the time,” explained Jee. “It not only helped to galvanize the Korean economy and put the nation on the global map, it also transformed the lives of many Koreans who became a car owner for the first time.”

The brand experience

The iconic car’s journey is also detailed in Hyundai’s first heritage exhibition, “PONY, the timeless.” Spread across all five floors of the Hyundai Motorstudio Seoul, the exhibition traces the journey of the Pony and the lasting mark it has left on the brand, auto industry and humanity at large.

“‘PONY, the timeless’ isn’t your typical automotive exhibition,” Jee said. “It features archival ephemera and multimedia assets from the 1970s and ‘80s to contextualize the Pony’s birth, original design drawings and interviews with Pony owners, in addition to exclusive Pony merchandise. We also launched the RETRACE publication series exploring the Pony’s past, present and future. Whether you lived through the Pony era or you’re learning about the Pony for the first time, the exhibition has something for everyone. We hope it provides a source of inspiration for those leveraging their own heritage to forge a path forward.”

To share its heritage story in a way that resonates with younger audiences, Hyundai collaborated with Korean band Jannabi for the “pony” music video. Through Jannabi’s signature nostalgia sounds, the music video appeals to both millennial and Gen Z consumers, and older generations who have a personal connection with the car. 

As these multi-faceted takes on the Pony’s journey show, the value of humanism is deeply embedded within the brand ethos. “For Hyundai, “Progress for humanity” isn’t just a statement—it‘s a mindset. It is why we exist,” Jee said. “We aim to benefit people‘s lives through innovative technologies. And we are committed to creating a better world for the next generation.”