Commentary: Hyundai's "Invisible Touch"

All Photos by Randy Stern
All Photos by Randy Stern

"…and Then There Were Three." "Three Sides Live." "Turn It On!" "Invisible Touch?"

How many Genesis puns should I use ahead of the new use for the band's name?

Actually, this is an old joke. Yet, some people may think that splitting Hyundai's luxury models into its own separate brand is equally hilarious. Satiristic, perhaps?

Let us be serious for a moment. This is what Hyundai wants to do. The stigma of selling its luxury wares through its main dealer channel – even if it meant to create a showroom-inside-a-showroom in most places in North America – may have caught up with the company from the Republic of Korea. It has been established that Hyundai can make some very good luxury cars. The latest Genesis sedan is a great example of that.

But, to create a new brand to sell these high end Hyundais? Yes, that is a good idea. Calling it Genesis – and using the winged badge as its logo – is probably apropos.

I am not against such a move. It was bound to happen eventually. Some may have argued that they should have done it when they first introduced the Genesis sedan in 2008 here in the USA. When the Equus arrived here a few years later, they had that opportunity to create that second brand to distinguish it from the rest of Hyundai's offerings.

What we have here is a necessary action by Hyundai. In order to offer a full line of vehicles, they have to feed each and every kind of customer attracted to this lineup. Luxury car buyers cannot be treated the same as mainstream customers. Toyota figured this out when they created Lexus 26 years ago, alongside Nissan's Infiniti brand.

This is not just a channel designed with North America in mind. This will become a worldwide operation. It means that Hyundai – via the Genesis brand – will go directly after the likes of Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac and the European luxury brands at every turn they can.

How will Hyundai pull this off? According to them, their key points in execution are "human-focused innovation, refined and balanced performance, athletic elegance in design and hassle-free customer experience." This sounds like a few luxury brands I know, though we have seen what Hyundai can do to fulfill most of these key points. Case in point is the current Genesis sedan, where the bar was raised to a level that the car now has the attention of the automotive media and its consumers.

Hyundai further stated that it will offer six Genesis models by 2020. So far, we can see the current Genesis sedan and the upcoming Equus replacement – the G90 – as at least two models on offer under the winged badge. The rest of the lineup is up to speculation.

As for the proposed naming convention…I shall refrain to express my feelings about it. Let us just say that it is par for the course. Moving right along…

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I heard that the next generation Genesis coupe will be sold under this badge. I have mixed feelings about this. If the new coupe is positioned against the Lexus RC, Infiniti Q60, BMW 4-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe and Audi A5, then it would be a welcomed in that realm. However, enthusiasts that love the current Genesis coupe will feel shut out because it would mean that the price for that car will skyrocket out of the reach of most enthusiast's wallets. Hyundai will have to create a coupe or some sort of sports machine under their own badge that will be satisfying to the wallet for these enthusiasts.

Obviously, there will be crossovers. They may have to be built above the specs of the Santa Fe 3-row and 2-row Sport models. To battle with the luxury brands, the crossover lineup will have to take shape as a compact two-row model, along with a three-row mid-sized version. Could they be built off of the Santa Fe platform(s)? OR, they could take on a rear-drive biased platform matching the entire lineup with a superior all-wheel drive system available. Even Alfa Romeo knows it would have to offer these products in order to be competitive in the luxury car game.

Of course, a luxury brand must have a 3-Series/ATS/IS/C-Class sedan/XE/Giulia competitor. Something "compact" and rear-wheel drive that could be offered with a wide range of engines and performance levels. It would give Hyundai/Genesis engineers a chance to show that they can play in the luxury car game with a performance model that could engage enthusiasts with a carrot – similar to the play being done by Alfa Romeo on their Giulia Quadrifoglio.

If this is the six-vehicle lineup Hyundai wants to play with under the Genesis brand, then it has a chance to eke out some volume and market share. However, there is no guarantee on complete success, considering the stranglehold Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus has on global and regional volumes.

My experience with Hyundai's luxury models show signs that it could happen.

Is there some sort of "invisible touch" that Hyundai might have to catapult Genesis into the forefront of the luxury car market? Maybe. Yet, it will take more than a revised winged badge, compelling product and the commitment by the Hyundai Motor Company towards it success. The key to this success is how Hyundai will deliver the promises of the brand to its customers. The expectations are high, if Genesis is to compete on the level with Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW, etc., it has to establish a level of service that is peerless and beyond what it gives its current customers at the Hyundai dealerships.

The next step for Hyundai is to "turn it on." And, not just the lights inside a new Genesis showroom…

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