Hyundai Genesis – Detroit Auto Show New Vehicle Intro
The Hyundai Genesis is the new flagship for Hyundai Motor America. Slated for launch in Spring 2008 as a 2009 model, Hyundai will try to position the Genesis more as a luxury sport sedan than Korean land barge it really is. Let’s talk about that a moment. The Genesis – or BH – is designed as the Hyundai flagship in Korea. As such, it will usually be a chauffer-driven conveyance with the chairman or president regally reclined in the doily covered rear seat. Big, comfortable, quiet. That’s the ticket.
Mainstream Brand/Luxury Entry
Now, for a luxury car from an import-brand manufacturer to succeed, Americans expect the car to be more of a sport sedan. Like a Mercedes or BMW. Well, the Genesis largely delivers the specifications to be competitive, but it’s an image game. Of course, Honda, Toyota and Nissan sell luxury cars in the USA, but they sell them under luxury channel badges – Acura, Lexus and Infiniti. Hyundai is selling Genesis as a Hyundai – not a second channel – so Genesis carries the baggage of Hyundai’s market positioning.
Can Hyundai, a Korean manufacturer once known for building low quality econoboxes but now getting credit for making some of the highest quality vehicles in the market compete against luxury marques? Hyundai hopes it has the right product and can find the right way to position and communicate that product to make it a success in the market. Hyundai likes to compare its $30,000 – $40,000 Genesis to $60,000 – $70,000 competitors from Germany and japan.
Editor’s note: I did see Hyundai’s Vice President of Product Planning, John Krafcik ogling the upcoming Pontiac G8 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. V8-powered (360HP), rear wheel drive, priced below $30,000, the G8 may steal some of Genesis’ thunder when they both hit the market at about the same time. John was kinda pale after looking over the Pontiac G8.
The Genesis is not a head-turner, but a relatively safe, contemporary design and will offend no one. It looks modern, but not risky. In many ways it will blend in with its competition so Hyundai will have to depend on Genesis succeeding based on price and specifications. On the specifications side, Genesis promises to be very competitive.
Top Notch Interior with all the Required Luxury Filips
The instrumentation uses Hyundai’s blue glow gauges and ergonomics appear to be pretty good. The double cockpit instrument panel is modern and reminiscent of the new Cadillac CTS and other contemporary luxury cars.
As expected in a luxury class car, there are high-tech features available such as aLexicon Logic 7 audio system with USB and iPod inputs, XM satellite radio (a standard HMA feature), HD radio, Bluetooth for hands-free cellphoning, and an optional navigation system with a huge, eight-inch screen.
RWD Platform with IRS. V8 Available
The Genesis is a front-engine, rear wheel drive 4-door sedan with independent rear suspension and an available V8 engine. Genesis has a larger interior than either the Mercedes E-Class or the BMW 5-Series.
There are three different powertrains, the base engine is a 3.3-liter, all-aluminum V6 with 264 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. The first level engine option is a 3.8-liter version of the engine with 290 hp and 264 lb-ft. The V6s use an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission.
The big news is the 4.6-liter V8, which is paired with a six-speed automatic with manual mode. The 4.6L V8 has 368 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque (on regular fuel; with premium, the numbers jump to 375 hp/333 lb-ft), it’s one of the most powerful engines in the segment, besting competitors like the Infiniti M45, Lexus GS460, BMW 7-Series.
Price has not yet been announced, but Hyundai has tipped the base price to be under $30,000 and it appears a fully equipped V8-powered Genesis should top out at over $40,000. After all, a fully optioned Hyundai Veracruz SUV can hit $40,000, so this is not completely uncharted waters for HMA. Remember our early comment about the Pontiac G8. It’ll be interesting to comparably equip G8 with the Genesis. Our guess is that they are pretty similar at the bottom end, but G8’s V8 entry will be substantially less expensive than V8 Genesis.
Will Hyundai Positioning Strategy Succeed Against Luxury “Brand” Vehicles?
With Genesis being part of the mainstream Hyundai lineup, it tests a positioning philosophy that no other mainstream brand has succeeded with. Sure we have big RWD V8 sedans at Dodge and Chrysler, Ford and Mercury and soon Pontiac. There are FWD V8s at Chevrolet and Buick. On the import side, VW tried it with a W8 Passat and the Passat bombed. The VW Phaeton – a much more expensive proposition than Genesis – bombed too. So, the jury is out. How will folks be attracted to a Hyundai “Luxury Sport Sedan” at an attractive price, with conservative styling, with a 100,000 mile warranty and powerful V8? Stay tuned.