Hyundai Motor has increased its number of designers by more than 200% over the past five years to more than 500 as part of plans to strengthen its design ability, according to the Korea Times.

The company which once assembled Ford Cortinas before moving on to make cars using Mitsubishi mechanicals first established a design unit in 1977.

About 100 of its 500 designers are working in Europe and the United States to tailor cars for western tastes.

Since 2001 it has invested over US$200 million in design and testing facilities throughout North America.

A $25 million facility will house 150 vehicle designers, engineers, model makers and technicians.

Hyundai officials told the paper the main benefit of this design centre is having California-based staff that understand how to take automotive trends and make them appealing to US consumers on a larger scale.

"This new design facility reaffirms our commitment toward investing in the US economy as well as (our) commitment toward the creation of stylish car designs for our US consumers,'' a Hyundai Motor America executive told the Korea Times.

Hyundai Motor's design team recently united with that of its affiliate, Kia. The combined unit, named the Hyundai America Technical Centre, is expected to contribute to greater customer satisfaction there.

Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group selected the city of Irvine for the design and technical centre, close to the US Hyundai Motor headquarters in Fountain Valley.