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Hyundai’s New Genesis Luxury Brand is Necessary, but No Guarantee

Hyundai’s New Genesis Luxury Brand is Necessary, but No Guarantee

By Christian Wardlaw, November 05, 2015

What is luxury? Earlier this year, an art exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum explored the subject, seeking not to provide a definitive answer to the question but rather to consider how luxury means different things to different people.

Evidently, Hyundai Motor Co. has decided that luxury is defined as a separate sales channel called Genesis.

On November 4, 2015, Hyundai announced that it would establish Genesis as its global luxury brand, under which it plans to sell six model lines that cater to “new luxury” customers with the highest standards of “human-centered” performance, design, and innovation.

“We have created this new Genesis brand with a complete focus on our customers who want smart ownership experiences that save time and effort, with practical innovations that enhance satisfaction. The Genesis brand will fulfill these expectations, becoming a market leader through our human-centered brand strategy,” said Euisun Chung, Hyundai Motor Company Vice Chairman.

Simplicity is another hallmark of luxury, based on what Hyundai says about Genesis. The automaker specifically notes that the new Genesis lineup will “distance itself from the traditional technological overload of brand-focused competitors, concentrating instead on a personalized, hassle-free customer experience.”

Genesis launches in December, arriving first in Korea, China, the Middle East, and North America. I can’t speak for car buyers in other parts of the world, but here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A., luxury is not about design, or comfort, or technology, or performance, though each of these elements certainly plays a role in the overall definition of the concept.

Instead, luxury is about the perceptions of other people.

People who buy luxury vehicles don’t want to explain their purchase. Instead, the purchase must explain itself. Just as Viking says something different than Kenmore, or Rolex signals something different from Timex, Mercedes-Benz demonstrates stature that Hyundai simply cannot convey.

Through September of 2015, Mercedes had sold more CLA-Class cars to Americans than Hyundai had Genesis Coupes and sedans. By the time you add metallic paint, 18-in. aluminum wheels, leather seats, wood trim, and a reversing camera to the subcompact CLA250, you could be driving a Genesis 3.8 sedan, easily the superior vehicle despite its lower cost. However, it doesn’t have a 3-pointed star embedded into its grille, and that long-standing emblem of wealth and success requires no explanation.

Hyundai’s flagship model, the Equus, is in the same boat, having barely outsold the Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric car through September. Selling the Equus, or whatever replaces it, through a luxury channel might not be the solution to this problem, though. Acura moved just 44 more units of its most expensive sedan, the RLX, than Hyundai sold Equus sedans during the same period of time.

Design, and the lust it can inspire, is going to play a big role in the success of Genesis. Hyundai is putting Luc Donckerwolke in charge of its new Prestige Design Division. Donckerwolke comes from Volkswagen Group, where he headed design for Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini. He’ll report to Peter Schreyer, President and Chief Design Officer for Hyundai Motor Group, and the gentleman responsible for making Kia’s lineup of cars and crossovers desirable for reasons other than a long warranty.

Hyundai says the rollout of six Genesis car and crossover SUV models will be complete by 2020, and that the vehicles will adopt an alphanumeric naming strategy using the letter “G” as an anchor. Thus, the next-generation Genesis coupe could become the G60, the Genesis sedan could transform into the G70, and the replacement for the Equus could be labeled the G80.

While that approach isn’t terribly innovative, and the Genesis logo looks too much like the offspring of a late-night hookup between a Chrysler badge and a Bentley emblem, I am hopeful for Genesis’s success. For me, the most compelling aspect of Hyundai’s Genesis announcement is that the automaker references performance and driving dynamics six different times, and doesn’t discuss autonomous driving technologies even once.

That, ladies and gentlemen, gladdens this car enthusiast’s heart.

Additional Research:

  Genesis Unveils Sleek Essentia Electric Concept in New York
Genesis, Hyundai Motor’s premium brand, unwrapped at the 2018 New York International Auto Show the all-electric Essentia Concept Touring Coupe to redefine “athletic elegance” for future models.
  2019 Genesis G70 Preview
With its arrival in 2018 as a 2019 model-year vehicle, the all-new Genesis G70 compact sport sedan brings the Genesis sedan count to three: G70, G80, and G90. Read our preview for more details!
  Genesis Debuts GV80 Fuel Cell SUV Concept at New York Auto Show
The Genesis luxury brand, spun off by the Hyundai group in 2015, unveiled its first luxury concept SUV at the New York Auto Show this week.
  New for 2017: Genesis
The Genesis name and its winged logo will be applied to a planned range of six luxury models. For 2017, the lineup contains the G80 and the G90, which effectively replaces the Hyundai Equus. Find out what's new for each 2017 Genesis car model in our buyer's guide...
  Photo Gallery: 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport at the 2016 L.A. Auto Show
See photos of the new 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport from the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.
  2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Debuts at 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show
This week, Hyundai Motor’s new Genesis premium brand took the wraps off its 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport variant at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.
  Genesis Debuts High-Styled Premium Compact Concept at New York Auto Show
Hyundai Motor’s new Genesis luxury brand this week previewed its New York Concept compact hybrid sports sedan at the New York International Auto Show.
  2017 Genesis G90 Preview
Hyundai is transforming the Genesis nameplate into a full-fledged luxury brand, starting with the G90 for the 2017 model year.
  Hyundai’s New Lux Genesis Brand Unveils Flagship G90 Sedan
Hyundai Motor Co. today took the wraps off the Genesis G90, its first top-of-the-line large luxury sedan in the new premium Genesis brand lineup.
  Hyundai’s New Genesis Luxury Brand is Necessary, but No Guarantee
Evidently, Hyundai Motor Co. has decided that luxury is defined as a separate sales channel called Genesis.
  Hyundai Announces New Premium Genesis Brand
This week, Hyundai announced that it will launch a new global premium car brand—Genesis—with its first model debuting in December. Learn more with J.D. Power Cars.
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