Hyundai and Kia got the Frankfurt Motor Show off to a flying start with an early unveil of their new European research and technical centre as well as two all-new concept vehicles, writes Interchange‘s Chris Wright.

One day before the show opened its doors to the press, the new Hyundai Motor Europe HQ was opened just down the road in Russelsheim by company chairman Mong Koo Chung.

With plans afoot to establish a factory in Europe for the South Korean automaker, which owns both the Hyundai and Kia brands, the new HQ is an important step forward as it looks to double European sales to 500,000 within the next five years.

Werner Frey, vice-president Hyundai Motor Europe, said the company was closing in on the volumes required to make a new factory viable. A European manufacturing operation, he said, was a vital component in the Korean company’s vision to be a top five automaker by 2010.

European sales are currently running at 250,000 a year, a figure Frey expects to double within the next five years. HMC is currently the third largest importer into Europe from the Far East behind Toyota and Nissan – and closing fast on second place. A new plant would build B and/or C sector models and most probably Hyundai and Kia brand vehicles.

With volumes of the Hyundai Getz building rapidly, this is likely to be the first car to go into production. Frey added: “In my opinion I would think we would produce both brands, two thirds Hyundai and one third Kia.”

A number of locations for the new plant have been speculated upon, particularly Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic or Slovakia.”

Hyundai’s new concept for Frankfurt is the Coupe Cabriolet (CCS), a convertible version of the current Hyundai Coupe car with a foldaway hood.

The company is keen to judge the impact of the Hyundai CCS at this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Designed in South Korea, the electronically folding roof has been added by European design house Karmann. It is thought likely that it will make it into production.

The car is powered by the same 2.7-litre petrol engine found in the current Hyundai Coupe.