The Palisade Plan (aka the Potemkin move)


The Palisade Plan (aka the Potemkin move)

After World War 2, America's Marshall Plan helped Europe get back on its feet. An SUV could do the same for North Korea. EGMONT SIPPEL drove the updated version of Hyundai's hotel on wheels.


I have an idea for the neutralisation of Kim Jong Un, the 41-year-old  leader of North Korea whose nuclear arsenal is raising the spectre of a third world war.

The “Supreme Leader" (as Kim is known) is friends with American basketball player Dennis “The Worm" Rodman, maybe the only Westerner who is truly welcome in Pyongyang. And, who knows, maybe Dennis's three children as well.

With this in mind, the plan would be to send Rodman to North Korea with a battalion of Hyundai Palisades and have him deliver a testimonial to Kim about the vehicle's wonders: the abundant space in which even a man of 2.01 m such as Rodman easily fits, with his family,  many dogs and luggage; the excellent 2.2 ℓ turbodiesel power source that propels  the lifestyler's five metres and two tonnes with utmost ease and in quiet refinement via all four wheels; the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission that now shifts even more smoothly and quickly than before; the great ride quality and tons of equipment.

All of this makes the Palisade feel like a spaceship. Or, as my neighbour's kiddie asked: “Daddy, when are we driving in the hotel again?"

But what does this have to do with Kim Jong Un? Well, the Hyundai  might just help avert World War 3.

The modern Marshall Plan

The Palisade Plan is three-fold.

First, Rodman has to make Kim fall in love with the Hyundai flagship, which would be easy.

Second, he should make the point that communism and autocracy do not give birth to vehicles like the Palisade, but to ramshackle things like anything that bears the name Pyeonghwa.

Should the Supreme Leader still resist, a third strategic move would be to target the fake village that lies just north of the border post between the two Koreas. This place is modelled on the make-believe villages that the military statesman Grigory Potemkin set up in southern Russia almost a quarter of a millennium ago to impress Catherine the Great during her travels.

In Kim's version, the lights can be seen going on and off at night, and if you look at it from the other side of the demilitarised zone during the day, you will see soldiers scrambling about to create the impression of life. But that's all fake. It's a Potemkin village. There are no shops or schools or hotels.

Now the plan is for Rodman to leave half of his fleet of Palisades there. Maybe the soldiers will get used to hotel living.

And if Kim himself should show up there in a Palisade one day, then it's a done deal. No one will ever want to get into a Pyeonghwa after they've been for a drive in this enormous SUV. Patriotism has its limits, unlike the longing for luxury, comfort and status, which is unlimited.

North Korea's focus will soon shift southwards, towards Ulsan, where the world's largest car plant builds thousands of Hyundais every year, many of which are shipped across the globe via Busan, the world's sixth-busiest port.

Engine and performance

The Palisade (named after the affluent Pacific Palisades neighbourhood in Los Angeles) made its debut at the LA Auto Show in December 2018 as a bulky seven- or eight-seat lifestyler.

It arrived on showroom floors in 2021 and has recently been updated. Its new “face" is particularly striking. If you want to make an impression, you have to do it from the front. The Palisade now boasts a large rectangular grille that looks angrier than a cage-fighting team.

Behind it lies the same lovely 2.2 ℓ four-cylinder turbodiesel as before, a shiny gem (0-100 km/h in 10.5 seconds; top speed 190 km/h) which also growls in the Staria and sends 147 kW/440 Nm to all four wheels.

Fuel consumption in the city is 9 ℓ/100 km, but if you drive carefully on the open road, it's sometimes as low as 6 ℓ/100 km. The engine's two biggest features remain its easy power delivery and quiet refinement. Overtaking is by no means lightning fast but far from being a headache, while the advanced third-generation selective damping control helps guarantee excellent ride quality.

Technical and cabin upgrades

Other technical innovations include anti-sway stabilisation technology that helps keep everything in a straight line when the Palisade is used as a towing vehicle. When hitching your Ventertjie, the reversing camera even projects guidelines on the info screen so the connection point between vehicle and trailer can be found effortlessly.

Attention was also given to the steering system, rear differential, body torsional rigidity, crash safety and noise reduction (such as the rear doors' thicker glass and stronger seals).

But Palisade owners might enjoy the upgrades to the cabin even more.

The driver can, for example, use the microphone and speaker system to talk directly to any naughty people in the rear of the car. No more excuses that they couldn't hear what mom or dad was saying.

There is also a camera that explores the area to the left of the vehicle if you use the indicators on that side. And lo and behold, also double sunroofs, a plethora of USB sockets, heating and cooling for the first two rows of leather-clad seats, plus an abundance of seat configurations that can convert the Palisade into 2,500 litres of hotel space, enough for a decent children's party.

And if rear passengers want to take a nap, there's even a quiet mode that switches off the rear speakers only.

Ultimately, the Palisade is closer to a five-star hotel on wheels than Kim's finger is to the nearest nuclear launch button.

And that's where America's Marshall Plan after World War 2 comes into play. The idea was that Europe had to be assisted economically, among other reasons for it to be a stronger buffer against Russian expansionism.

In the same way, the Palisade Plan can save us from Kim Jong Un. The Hyundai hotel on wheels might just be the right catalyst for an economic revolution in North Korea. Capitalism feeds on itself; the more it grows, the more it wants to grow.

Seen this way, the Palisade's big belly might help change the world, especially if Rodman can deliver it with a bunch of toy nuclear missiles the next time he seeks out the Supreme Leader.

Fake weapons are often a great way to keep a certain type of child busy.

  • Price: Hyundai Palisade 2.2D 4WD Elite (7- or 8-seater) – R1.1 million.

♦ VWB ♦

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