Genesis – The car you almost certainly never promised yourself
Despite teasing British motoring journalists for the past decade, reports Iain Robertson, Genesis, the luxury arm of Hyundai, has been shaping up in other new car markets, with a far-from-subtle ‘you want this, don’t you?’ barb for the UK.
Put into perspective, Genesis is to Hyundai, what Lexus is to Toyota, Audi is to Volkswagen and Infiniti is to Nissan. While Genesis has been earning its stripes by lifting JD Power awards in North America, a nation that has also accepted each of its three key rivals with open arms, it is largely unknown in the UK, apart from the occasional mention in automotive despatches. It is worth highlighting that Audi is a genuine success story for VeeDub, Lexus does not perform too shabbily for Toyota but Infiniti has been an abysmal disaster in our market, being withdrawn a couple of years ago, as a negligible interest novelty.
If anything, Hyundai has been especially judicious in avoiding a product introduction so far to our new car scene. It has noted the wasteland potential that includes Xedos for Mazda and Acura for Honda, let alone the shaky performance of top-spec Citroen and Peugeot models, which includes PSA Group’s Genesis rivalling DS line-up. In fact, when you reflect on the luxury car segment in the UK, it is only Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that have thrived, with Volvo almost knocking at the door of their success and Jaguar holding station with its unreliable but reputation-laden past (significantly greater than its present) clinging onto the wreckage.
Yet, Hyundai is broadening its international market presence, which makes me think that it is readying itself for a limited assault here. My advice would be to leave things the way they are. Look at the abysmally poor performance of Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia, with its Stinger range. Not for one minute do I believe that Kia UK was as much behind Stinger as it purported to be at the outset. The precept of a select number of its better dealers becoming Stinger ‘specialists’ relied far too much on their individual resolve and integrity, of which extraordinarily little has been in evidence. However, a £40k Kia is clearly £15k too much for our new car scene. I fear that Hyundai could be sailing in similar waters and it would not need a list price storm to sink the brand.
It is of no surprise to me that Genesis performs strongly in North America, Russia, Australia and the Middle East, where ‘bling’ does well and past reputation, or a mere decade of brand history, has little relevance. To be fair to Genesis, sensory appeal is well ordered in its most recent models, along with the latest technologies, and a design and style premise that is laden with images of hand-stitched hides, matched wood veneers and polished details, all of which help to distance the brand from its early, chintzier offerings.
The range starts with the sporty G70 saloon. Based on the same platform as the aforementioned Kia Stinger, it is as sweet as its Kia house rival and most attractive, if lacking a little in character, in a sort of medium sector ‘photofit’ way. It is abundantly clear that the Lexus GS range has inspired Hyundai’s styling department but, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such action that the G70 looks so neutrally bland is unfortunate at best.
Next up is the very Audi-esque G80, which offers a choice of 3.8-litre, 311bhp V6, in two, or four-wheel drive forms, or the boombox beat of a 5.0-litre, 420bhp V8 rear-driven optional powerhouse. Despite downsizing being present in North America, a large proportion of that population still believes in the old adage about cubic capacity and retains a fascination for V8s, even when they possess a grim 18mpg Official Combined fuel return, which troubles neither US, nor Russian oligarchs. The G80 also has a purposefully directed Sport variant, powered by the 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 engine used to such vibrantly good effect in Stinger.
Without a surprise, there is a GV80 SUV model, which benefits from the use of a six-cylinder turbo-diesel motor. Genesis has been exceptionally careful not to scrimp on the details with its SUV, which is tech-laden, all-wheel drive and Range Rover rivalling, with an array of technology ‘firsts’ in the class. The radiator shell is even larger and more explicit in the GV80, by way of giving it greater street presence. Air-pad adjustable seats herald Merc-class comfort levels.
At the top of the shop is the latest G90 luxury sedan (the original having been launched in 2015), its profile highlighting the influence of the BMW 7-Series, although observers do not have to peer too deeply to spot styling references from both Audi and Merc too. It is packed to the gunwales with cutting-edge technology and customer pleasing levels of luxury.
Genesis cannot afford to get its market position wrong. In world terms, it is a new brand, which means that it must meet the demands of an increasingly discerning consumer base, especially as its pricing strategy places it firmly in the upper echelons. As such, it needs to be dynamically unflawed, regardless of a stated comfort and luxury bias. While much of its marketing activities deliver the customary, extravagant exhortations that are designed to appeal to the luxury car mindset, the company is sure to rely heavily on the experiences of both Hyundai and Kia in their respective sectors. It would not dare otherwise.
The prospect of forking out for a ‘premium-badged’ South Korean luxury model is limited primarily by that nation’s fast-track development programme. Both Kia and Hyundai are still shaking off a budget car brief and, while their customers are becoming more familiar with paying Ford prices, their emphasis is still hooked securely to value-for-money, higher equivalent specifications and keen lease deals. It is my belief that Genesis has a couple of additional steps to escalate, before it might entertain product launches into the UK, let alone France, or Germany.
Conclusion: Assuredly worthy, well-built and dependable, the up-market Genesis brand still has a lot of work to complete, before it might have any hope of success in Western Europe. Some style innovations might also help its cause, while a lack of electrification will stifle positive responses.