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New York Auto Show 2008 – 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

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A New Coupe, A Year Away
Hyundai spent their New York auto show time introducing their new rear-drive sporty coupe, the Genesis Coupe. Related to the Genesis sedan on sale this summer, the coupe arrives in spring 2009.

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Genesis sits on Hyundai’s first in-house rear-drive car platform. The stylish coupe tames down its looks from the concept introduced in Los Angeles in November 2007, but mostly in losing hood scoops and refining lights, front grille, and spoiler shapes. What Hyundai held back for introduction was that the powertrain lineup includes a turbocharged and intercooled 212HP 2.0L I4 as the base engine. The 3.8L V6 arrives as expected, but most figured the second powertrain would be the sedan’s V8.
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Hyundai Genesis – Detroit Auto Show New Vehicle Intro

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.


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Cerberus Takes Chrysler Off Daimler's Hands

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Private equity firm Cerberus is in the process of taking Chrysler Group out of the hands of the automaker formerly known as DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX). What will soon become Daimler AG will continue to own 19.9% of the new company – Chrysler Holdings LLC – with Cerberus owning the remainder. This is the end of the Jurgen Schrempp dream for Daimler-Benz to create a global auto colossus made up of Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.
Daimler-Benz took over (no merger – ever) Chrysler Corporation in November 1998 for $36 billion. Nine years later, DCX agreed to sell 80% of what is now Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital for $7.4 billion. Clearly Schrempp’s plan did not work.
Impact on Opinion of Chrysler –
In late March, a VehicleVoice survey indicated that the opinion of Chrysler Group had deteriorated drastically from a year earlier. Our respondents variously said: “Daimler bought ’em, raped ’em and threw them away,” “Why would I buy a car from a company that’s parent company is trying to sell it?” Perhaps the purchase by Cerberus will serve to offset some of this deterioration, but time will tell.

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Cerberus Has Auto Industry Heavyweights Involved
Cerberus is the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell. Cerberus Capital is an interesting firm in its own right. Secretive to a fault, at least three auto industry heavyweights are on its letterhead (if they had one): David Thursfield, former Vice Chairman of Ford and an aggressive cost cutter; Wolfgang Bernhard, former COO of Chrysler Group (with Zetsche) and then head of Volkswagen in Germany prior to his Cerberus gig; and Robert Rewey, former head of Sales at Ford. Rewey could sell anything any day of the week. While Cerberus says they will keep the present Chrysler Group management team in place, it is only a matter of time that “adjustments” begin being made.
Remember the character in Pretty Woman played by Richard Gere? He was a private equity magnate that wanted to buy a shipbuilder, break it up and sell the pieces for a profit. A private equity firm like Cerberus isn’t too much different and the jury is still out on how Cerberus will handle its investment in Chrysler Group.
Cerberus has an interesting portfolio – a large stake in Delphi, 51% of GMAC – General Motors’ financing arm, Tower Automotive, Guilford Mills, Albertson’s, Sav-On, and others. The fact that Cerberus now controls Chrysler Financial and over half of GMAC gives it substantial clout in the automotive financial services market.
So, now, Chrysler Holdings can stay below the radar as a privately held company. Unfettered of its requirements to be transparent financially the company will largely be able to restructure itself outside the glare of the media and Wall Street. What will emerge after three, five or seven years is unknown, but the story will be fascinating to watch as is unfolds.


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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.


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Hyundai Veracruz: Soon to Arrive in the States

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Hyundai has developed a new SUV/crossover to go up against the likes of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Mitsubishi Endeavor. In size terms, it falls neatly between the Pilot and Explorer, or between Mazda’s new CX-7 and upcoming CX-9. On sale in the States in December 2006 and being formally introduced to U.S. buyers at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in January, Veracruz has already arrived in the home market. Here are some photos of the Korean-specification model, from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, along with some speculation and fact about what we think we’ll see here in three month’s time.

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At first glance, the Veracruz styling is attractive and the expected equipment level looks to be competitive. We’re looking forward to seeing it in the tin, the real measure. As Hyundai product executions make solid strides in quality and overall look with each successive product, the Veracruz has potential to be one of the best Hyundai offerings yet.


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2007 Hyundai Tiburon – High Value Sporty Car Improves

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The 2007 Hyundai Tiburon, launched in November 2006 improves Hyundai’s entry into the sporty car category. Hyundai expects to sell about 18,000 Tiburon coupes per year in the dwindling sporty coupe market. Its primary competitors are the more expensive Mitsubishi Eclipse and the less expensive, but much less fully-equipped, Scion tC. You can also throw the Honda Civic coupe and coupe Si in the competitive set.
At a Glance – No Change – But Styling Details Improve
Basically a minor facelift with interior upgrades, the 2007 Tiburon gets what the industry calls a new “front and rear six (inches)”. The front fascia and hood are new. The hood has longitudinal strakes that are becoming somewhat of a Hyundai signature – if only they would be consistent and put them on everything. The front fascia is stronger looking than previous with the car now getting projector headlamps. The taillamps are new – adopting a projector-like design that is all the rage.

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Distinctive Touch – Shades of Aston Martin Gills
Not to be left out of the gill wars, Hyundai added gills to the conveniently styled bodyside strakes of the Tiburon. Nice touch that moves the Tiburon a bit away from its competition.
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Hyundai Santa Fe Wins AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicles

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In its last year before being replaced, the Hyundai Santa Fe continues its string of category-leading performances in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Santa Fe has won or tied in its category for five of the six years it has been on the market. In fact, Santa Fe was the first Korean brand vehicle to win one of the coveted AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. This is a testament to Santa Fe’s strong combination of product competence, value and warranty. Santa Fe satisfies its owners and continues to help Hyundai build its brand image in the United States.


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Hyundai Chooses New York for Worldwide Elantra Sedan Reveal

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Elantra Owners Helped Introduce the New Car
Hyundai’s Elantra gets a major change for the 2007MY, with sales in fall 2006 after a worldwide introduction at the 2006 New York auto show in April. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to get a first look at the new car. Though this reveal was not as dramatic as the fashion show that surrounded the Audi TT’s introduction or the mud-covered Jeep Wrangler unveiling, Hyundai cleverly brought in real Elantra owners to help introduce the new car and gave the presentation a real-world touch.

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Wrangler and TT introductions no doubt ranked higher on enthusiasts’ interest scale in New York, but to put this into perspective, Hyundai sold about 109,900 Elantra sedans in 2005 compared with Jeep Wrangler sales of about 79,000 units and Audi TT sales of about 2,800 units (down in part as the Audi ramps up for the new model). The Elantra has been no slouch for Hyundai, and will be a strong contributor to the brand’s goal of breaking the 500,000-unit sales mark in 2006.
Hyundai owners are also satisfied enough to be repeat buyers, making the Elantra a winner by many yardsticks. Since the 2007MY change brings an improved and refined Elantra that the company wisely kept close in spirit to the outgoing product, there is no reason that the new-for-2007MY Elantra will not continue to win over more Hyundai owners.
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Hyundai also took the opportunity to remind us that, with Elantra sales, they will have fulfilled their promise of seven new models in twenty-four months. The promise was made in 2004, and the Elantra will be the seventh car. It follows Tucson, Sonata, Accent, Azera, Santa Fe, and Entourage.


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Schembri and Killen – American Marketing Management Out at Mitsubishi

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Editors NOTE: Since this was written, Dave Schembri has landed at Roger Penski’s smart operations in the USA. Schembri had been head of smart at Mercedes-Benz USA prior to joining MMNA. Wayne Killen joined Hyundai Motor America as Director of Product Planning in early 2007.
Mitsubishi Motors North America announced on Friday, February 17, that Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Schembri and Vice President of Marketing Wayne Killen had resigned from the Company. In a statement by Mitsubishi, “Both left to pursue other opportunities.”
The former Mitsubishi marketing duo joined Mitsubishi at a time when sales were off drastically from prior years and no rebound in sight. Just stabilizing losses and rebuilding from a lower base of sales may have been considered a success, but even after a year with Dave Schembri running Sales and Marketing the Titanic couldn’t be turned.
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Schembri joined Mitsubishi Motors North America in February 2005 after serving as the chief of the Maybach brand at Mercedes-Benz USA and then head of its still-born smart division. With the demise of smart’s efforts in the USA shortly following the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Schembri moved westward to Mitsubishi headquarters in Cypress, California.
Wayne Killen, brand manager for the ill-advised Maybach brand at MBUSA joined Schembri at Mitsubishi in August 2005 as Vice President of Marketing. Working for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America early in his career (1987 – 1989), Killen had most recently spent ten years at Mercedes-Benz USA. At MMNA, Killen was responsible for advertising, brand experience marketing, product and marketing public relations and product strategy.
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During their tenure at MMNA, Schembri and Killen launched the 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Mitsubishi Raider pickup and had just completed the public introduction of the soon-on-sale Eclipse Spyder.
The duties of Schembri and Killen are beeing handled by Hiroshi Harunari. Harunari has bee co-Chief Operating Officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America since January 2006. Rich Gilligan, former head of Mitsubishi’s manufacturing operations in Normal Illinois continues as the other co-COO.
These moves at Mitsubishi demonstrate the level of exposure senior managers take at some import-brand distributors. Last Fall, Peter Butterfield was ousted from his position as head of Kia Motors of America. In January, after a very confident presentation at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Cosmai fell at Hyundai Motor America. While Schembri and Killen had not yet been able to stabilize MMNA’s fortunes in the USA, Butterfield and Cosmai were managing companies that have healthy growth and prospects.


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Dodge Caliber Adopts Global Development Strategy

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The all new Dodge Caliber is a good example of global cooperation in automotive product development. Caliber overcomes daunting challenges of cross-continent and cross-cultural communications.
Major Participants – Chrysler Group – Mitsubishi – Hyundai – JATCO
The basic platform is from Mitsubishi. Called the GS Platform, the basic parameters were established years ago while DaimlerChrysler was still an equity holder in Mitsubishi Motors. After DCX divested itself of its MMC shares, the contractural relationship with Mitsubishi on the GS platform continued. Over time, Chrysler Group will get numerous GS spin-offs including the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus. Mitsubishi-based platforms will occupy two Chrysler Group plants – Belvidere, Illinois and Sterling Heights, Michigan.
While the basic platform is a Mitsubishi, everything from the floorplan up – meaning the sheetmetal and interior trim is unique to Chrysler.
Wondering if the relationship was cordial or strained after the break-up, Chrysler managers were very complimentary about working with Mitsubishi’s Japanese product development groups.
But that is not the end of the story. That only gets us the basic platform but not the powertrain. This is where the Global Engine Alliance comes in.


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