Korean car maker confirms its assault on luxury market to rival German and Japanese brands.
Hyundai has confirmed it will launch its own global luxury brand, called Genesis, in Australia in just two years’ time, following in the footsteps of Toyota’s Lexus and Nissan’s soon-to-be-revived Infiniti sub-brands.
The Korean car maker is deep in planning for the launch of the Genesis sub-brand — not to be confused with the Hyundai large sedan of the same name — and how it will distinguish itself from its German and Japanese competition.
“A lot of things have to be studied and nothing is concrete at this stage,” Hyundai Australia senior manager of product planning and marketing Roland Rivero told Drive.
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“But one that is confirmed is the establishment of the Genesis brand in Australia in a couple of years. That’s 100 per cent.’’
Tentatively priced from the “mid-$40s”, the Genesis brand will initially offer two Korean-built, rear-wheel-drive model lines. One will comprise a mid-size sedan and coupe to rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.
Rivero says the car will be an all-new model and not the current Hyundai-badged Genesis, which was not developed for right-hand-drive configuration.
“The benchmarks for that car have been the Infiniti G37 and [BMW] 3-Series Coupe, so we’re not mucking around with that car. It’s an icon. Hyundai have got their act together for the next-generation [model], so thankfully, that’s coming.”
The Genesis brand’s second model line, a large V6- and 5.0-litre V8-powered sedan, will be positioned to compete with the E-Class, 5-Series and A6 from the aforementioned brands respectively. Hyundai’s Equus limousine is unlikely for Australia, although the company’s in-house 10-speed automatic transmission is likely to find its way into Australia-bound Genesis vehicles.
“The number of Genesis models is still under investigation, we haven’t finalised. I’d like a 3-Series/C-Class competitor and a 5-Series/E-Class competitor. That’s the initial step,’’ Rivero says.
“We can have something that does that initially for us, then we can grow and build from there depending on, obviously, the acceptance of the Australian market.’’
Rivero acknowledges that the luxury-car market is uncharted water for Hyundai as it faces enormous costs and challenges in launching a new brand. Others have tried and failed; Mazda’s Eunos brand was shortlived whileNissan’s Infiniti flopped here initially in the 1990s.
“A product from our company with a sticker price in the$ 50s is still something that’s not comfortable in the eyes of Australians at the moment. We’ve got to work towards that, even our dealer network isn’t used to selling a vehicle that isn’t an SUV of that price tag, for example.”
Rivero says Hyundai will use its foray into more-upmarket models — such as the i40 Tourer it launched last week — as “stepping stones” to launching the Genesis brand.
“If you go back to when Hyundai was just an Excel and Accent company, that was a very different brand and that wasn’t all that long ago. One car, the i30, changed perceptions of Hyundai overall,’’ he says.
“People want to have an affinity to a brand. They want to have bragging rights when they hop into a BMW, a Mercedes or a Lexus and that’s something that we’ve got to work on. It’s baby steps.
“You never really lose the linkage to the mother [brand]. Perceptions are still ‘Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus’ or ‘Nissan’s Infiniti’, so we will tackle this in a similar way, we need to be able to sell these higher-end cars – that’s why Getz is gone. The image has to move towards this modern premium understanding.’’
Rivero uses Lexus’s introduction as an example of launching in Australia with a single model, the LS430 limousine, which was significantly cheaper and better-equipped than its Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series rivals.
“There was a time when people had the same impression with anything that came out of Japan, but they got there. It takes a lot of money, a lot of investment in the brand and marketing and it also needs a lot of investment in the product,’’ he says.
‘‘We’ve got to have the right product and right marketing and sales campaigns, then we can get there. We’ve got to have faith in ourselves.”
Rivero says other Korean-made products such as consumer electronics brands LG and Samsung were helping to lift the quality perception of Korean manufacturing.
So how will Genesis compare with the likes of Lexus and Infiniti?
Rivero says Korea’s first global luxury brand will take the same approach of “world-class service that goes above and beyond”, which is a “non-negotiable” in the luxury segment.
“Luxury is very different to mainstream. The types of customers, how people behave, how people want to buy their cars, the interactions and, of course the level of service is very different,’’ he says.
‘‘That didn’t happen overnight for Lexus. There will be a clear distinction. It may not be immediately because to launch and establish a brand, there’s a lot involved and you can’t do everything from the get-go,” he says.
Possible retail options include a ‘‘lighthouse’’ dealership in each major city; a ‘‘shop-in-shop’’ arrangement similar to Mini dealerships being located on the same premises as BMW; or even no dealership at all in lieu of a “we come to you” model, which has proved successful in the US.
“I don’t think I’d want to have a Genesis coupe or sedan, for that matter, side-by-side with an Accent on the same showroom floor,” Rivero cautions.
“The Korean philosophy is ‘just get it out there, get people exposed to it and we’ll continue to tweak and improve as we go’, which is extremely different from the Japanese. There’s so much bureaucracy before a decision is made that by the time you’re ready to make that decision or implement that decision the market has moved. Here [at Hyundai], we roll with it,” he says.
“Something I hear a lot in this company is ‘have you tried?’ If we never try, then we’ll never know. But trying doesn’t mean that we’re going to do it half-heartedly. Trying means blood, guts, sweat and tears, which is also part of the Korean way.”