Next Genesis: How Hyundai wants to change the luxury car world

Toyota has Lexus, Nissan has Infiniti and Volkswagen has Audi. And, by the end, of this year Hyundai will have Genesis, Korea's first true luxury brand.

Following years of rumours and speculation, late in 2015 Hyundai confirmed it would create a luxury to target a slice of the fast growing segment of the market.

Part of the Hyundai Motor Company, which also owns Kia, Genesis started life as a single Hyundai model.

The Hyundai Genesis is a large luxury sedan that's proven popular with hire car operators but made little impact on the broader luxury market.

Then 18 months ago things changed; Hyundai announced it would spin Genesis out as a brand, not a model.

Genesis the brand is planned to take on the likes of BMW, Audi and the world's oldest car maker, Mercedes-Benz. What it lacks in heritage it makes up for (at least partially) in ambition.

Hyundai and its sister brand Kia have made enormous strides over the past decade in markets such as Australia.

Hyundai has managed to drag itself away from the $13,990 screamers it was known for and now outsells Holden, a once dominant Australian brand.

Getting on the shopping list

Heritage, prestige and badge count for everything in the luxury market, part of the reason Lexus and Infiniti are taking so long to seriously challenge the big players.


The result is immense brand loyalty. Coax someone into their first Brand A in their 30s, for example, and provided the product and customer service is good – it usually is - there's a decent chance they'll buy many more Brand As over their driving life.

Genesis acknowledges there's little hope in tempting for the brand faithful away from their current rides.

Instead it is targeting younger buyers and those stepping up to the luxury market.

The brand acknowledges it'll be a slow burn, but says it is in it for the long haul.

Value will be key to the sales pitch; newcomer brands typically offer more for less as a means to tempt customers away from the established players.

Genesis also says it will push into alternative powertrains, focusing on hybrid and electric propulsion to deliver on performance and efficiency.

The fine line between success and failure

The world is littered with failures and false starts in the luxury market. Mazda's Eunos brand of the 1990s was shortlived and the company has no desire to retread old ground.

Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan, first arrived here in the 1990s before taking a couple of decades off then giving it another crack. Sales are still modest.

Cadillac stumbled and tripped within weeks of going on sale in Australia before parent company General Motors went bankrupt. It's expected to have another attack around 2022 and will spend the ensuing years preparing new models fit for the task.

And Lincoln is too American – and too small – to even consider a global expansion for now, instead focusing on surviving on home turf.

Needless to say, there is enormous pressure – and pride – on the line for Genesis.

Meet the family

Six new models by 2021: that's the promise from Genesis.

The first to arrive in Australia late in 2017 will be the G70 and G80 sedans. The G80 will be familiar to some already; it's an updated version of the car sold here as the Hyundai Genesis (before Genesis the brand existed).

Revised styling and more features headline the changes for the large sedan that is powered by a 3.8-litre V6 (a 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 and 5.0-litre V8 are also available overseas but won't be sold here).

But the G70 is all new, a car that will look similar to the Genesis New York Concept from 2016.

As with its key rivals – the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class – it drives the rear wheels and will focus on driving dynamics, attention to detail and technology.

Then, in 2019 Genesis will bring out its first SUV. To be called GV80, it will be based on the just-released concept car of the same name and go up against the Audi Q7 and BMW X5.

Expect pricing to start around $70,000 and go all the way to $100,000.

Genesis will also build a smaller (mid-sized) SUV and a coupe, fleshing out the range.

Overseas, there is a G90 limousine available, although it won't initially be offered here because it is not produced with the steering wheel on the right.

Design grunt

Genesis has spent up big snaring some of the world's best designers for its new look and create the upcoming new family.

Heading the still growing design team is former Lamborghini and Bentley designer Luc Donckerwolke. Assisting him is Lee SangYup, a Korean who once designed the fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro.

Genesis has also hired ex-Bugatti designer Alexander Selipanov.

To its credit, Genesis understands that the look of its vehicles will be crucial to getting noticed in the increasing clutter of the luxury car market.

The GV80 concept - with its quad headlights and tail lights - gives a good idea of what to expect in terms of future Genesis models.

So, will Genesis succeed or fail?

So, will Genesis work? That will depend almost entirely on the appetite of Hyundai management to stick with it.

Sales will start off slow and take a long time to gain momentum, at least if history is any indicator.

Losses will mount, something that will no doubt be part of a business plan that would stretch a decade or more.

If the cars stand out visually and deliver on the luxury promise – as well as offering a strong value proposition - they should coax some to give them a try.

Then it's up to word of mouth, or, perhaps more likely, word of Facebook and Twitter.

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