Hyundai Accelerates Genesis Into Its Own Luxury Brand

·Contributing Editor

Car brands are not born every day. Some of us remember a period in the late 1980s where GM created Saturn and Honda begat Acura, followed by Toyota and Nissan bringing us Lexus and Infiniti, respectively. More recently, Toyota made Scion a low-budget (and still fledgling) thing and Tesla electrified the world with its own bad self. It’s a rare undertaking, risking billions of dollars up front and requiring decades of commitment to succeed.

So today’s news that Hyundai is spinning its Genesis nameplate into a whole separate luxury brand is a rather big deal.

To car wags, this is interesting, though not terribly surprising, since Hyundai’s current Genesis sedan is, by all accounts, the real luxury car deal, fully able to hold its head up high against luxury car stalwarts like the Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6. To outsiders, however, it may be confounding that a company known for bargain products will offer a full line of luxury cars under their own moniker.

Chris Hosford, Hyundai’s U.S. spokesman, cited three points in support of separating the Genesis name. Hyundai has spent seven years selling in the luxury space with the Genesis sedan and, higher up the ladder, the limo-like Equus. The new Genesis sedan ranks in the top three sellers in its segment. And: “The customers have told us they wanted this brand. They say, ‘I want the Genesis badge.’ Some Genesis customers have been re-badging their cars as Genesis on their own.”

Hyundai is promising six Genesis-branded models by 2020, all of which will be built on rear-wheel-drive underpinnings and are expected to feature styling elements previewed by the gorgeous Hyundai Vision G Coupe concept car Hyundai trotted out to the Pebble Beach Concours weekend earlier this year. According to Hosford, the first new Genesis model will be its flagship sedan, the G90, which replace the palatial Hyundai Equus sometime toward the middle of 2016. The new super-lux sedan will initially be sold through the 400 or so Hyundai dealers currently authorized to sell the Equus in the U.S.

The next Genesis product to appear will be the refreshed Genesis sedan in the 2017 calendar year, at which point it will be rechristened the G80, Hosford said. Later that year or in 2018, a smaller luxury sedan will appear to take on cars in the same hyper-competitive segment as the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Jaguar XE.

Other models expected to appear by the end of 2020 include SUVs and a coupe, the latter expected to resemble a more sophisticated expression of today’s Genesis coupe, said Hosford, rather than a production version of the large Vision G Coupe, which is about the size of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe. As for their names, watch for G70, G60, G50 and so on to grace their shiny rear ends.

While the new cars will ostensibly be positioned against rivals such as BMW, Audi and Cadillac, Hyundai says Genesis will “distance itself from the traditional technological overload of brand-focused competitors, concentrating instead on a personalized, hassle-free customer experience,” via “smart ownership experiences that save time and effort, with practical innovations that enhance satisfaction.” And what does that mean? Who knows. But if we were bettin’ folk it sounds like free cappuccinos, loaner cars, and car washes at the dealer will be just the beginning.

Starting a new brand also means huge changes at the store level; Hosford said details regarding dedicated facilities, locations, and sales processes are still being worked out.

Certainly, we expect to see the eventual construction of standalone Genesis showrooms, if for no other reason than to prevent showroom overcrowding. Hyundai is a brand with ambitions of its own; it’s prepping a Toyota Prius fighter, with the distinct possibility that Hyundai will add a pickup to the lineup and possibly a new rear-drive model of its own. Should the latter happen, Hosford said, that car would have to built on the smaller rear-drive platform since the large rear-wheel-drive platform is confirmed to be exclusive to Genesis.

“There’s a lot we’re still working on,” said Hosford. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.” Yeah, fun for everyone except the luxury competition.