Concept Hyundai Genesis: New York Auto Show

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Next, Hyundai Takes on Luxury Sport Sedans
As VehicleVoice reported earlier (click here), Hyundai revealed an upcoming rear-drive sedan as the Genesis concept at the New York Auto Show, and at what must have been one of the best-attended end-of-day press conferences ever. There was surprisingly little traffic around Genesis the next day during my walkaround. It was more difficult to get post-conference photos of the Infiniti EX or Ford Flex than the Hyundai, and we see the Genesis as one of the most significant introductions at this year’s show. (Click for our posting of Hyundai’s official Genesis photos.)

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Genesis, known internally at Hyundai as “BH”, telegraphs Hyundai’s intention to seriously go after rear-drive sports sedans. The exterior design builds on styling credibility Hyundai has been developing, but the interior and the driving dynamics that will make or break this car are still under wraps. A miss on the exterior styling would keep people away, but even with strong styling the car will not make it all the way to consumer driveways if the interior is a disappointment.
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Hyundai designers have created a smooth and elegant design, but Genesis does have one risk: It could blend in with the pack. Genesis takes styling cues from luxury brands all over the world (long, thin taillights much like the Lincoln Zephyr concept, though the MKZ production lights are taller; decklid bump from BMW; narrow headlights similar to Acura; lower LED fog lights along the lines of the Audi S6) and shown off on a silver car, created a credible look for their upcoming sports sedan. The wheels are sharp, as is the subtle character line running from front fender, over the door handles, and into the taillights. Though the grille is among the elements that may be revised before production, it is clearly a Hyundai grille and shares some relationship to the Azera.
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Hyundai gave no hints as to the interior, but the exterior design is ready to play. There’s a fine, fine line between hitting the mark and going too far. Genesis won’t be accused of moving the needle and does not offer new design elements. But Hyundai is working its way into relatively conservative segments, and Genesis takes the safe route. Luxury sedan buyers look for elegance, simplicity, and style and don’t seem to adapt quickly to dramatic style shifts; witness the brouhaha that surrounded the latest 7-Series introduction. Hyundai is wise to start off with something elegant but that does not push the envelope just yet.


Moving Upmarket Isn’t New for Scrappy South Korean Brand
Hyundai has been edging upmarket for years, consistently improving models at all price points, adding content, and bringing quality and fit and finish levels up. Each successive model has brought significant steps forward in style, amenities, fit and finish, and quality. From a product perspective, going this next step is not as large a leap that the overall lower consideration for the South Korean brand may indicate. In Hyundai’s hunt for uplevel consideration, the Veracruz can be seen as a step between Azera and Genesis, and our initial drive of that vehicle promises they’re ready to play. Materials are not as refined as the luxury makes, but at Hyundai price points value beats quality of leather.

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Hyundai has another element working strongly to their favor: Customer loyalty. Hyundai buyers, be they Santa Fe, Elantra, Sonata, or Azera buyers, have been very loyal and happy with their cars. (Santa Fe has won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award six times, for example. The 2006 Azera was the top rated car, overall, in AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards) There should be plenty of buyers with Hyundai ownership experience reaching a lifestage where a larger luxury sedan suits them. Between the Veracruz going for crossover SUV intenders and the Genesis providing a sports sedan, Hyundai will have a way to keep these buyers.
Real Product to Offer Traditional Hyundai Value
This entry will be offered in V6 and V8 versions. The V6 is rumored to be a breathed-upon 3.8L V6 similar to that in the Azera putting out about 300HP. The V8 is likely to be in thte 360HP range. With the V6 to start below $30,000 and the V8 likely around $35,000, and should compete with entries all over the map. At $30,000, competition is everywhere, even if development benchmarks and psychographic targets are the traditional luxury brands. Consider that many buyers either don’t know or care which axle does the driving, and you’ll understand that the car could be cross-shopped, considering price, size, and amenities, against the usual luxury-brand suspects (Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes), Nissan Maxima, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Lincoln MKZ, and even Ford Taurus.
Hyundai will provide the latest gadgets and safety features for this vehicle, including standard HD radio and working with Infinity on premium stereos. While it is likely the production sedan will have to make some sacrifices in materials to meet cost targets, Hyundai will likely be forgiven small lapses. Fit and finish needs to be as good as the best, but the company might be forgiven if interior materials quality isn’t quite as strong as Lexus, Audi, or Cadillac, simply because the price will be thousands and thousands less. And, even the first buyers of a Hyundai rear-drive sedan will understand it is the company’s first attempt. They may not be so forgiving next time around, but the first attempt will be given some latitude based on its cost relative to the established luxury brands.
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