There is a new badge coming to UK roads – and those behind Genesis hope that before long the name won’t primarily be associated with the Bible, or a 1980s musical supergroup, but with luxury vehicles.
Plans for Genesis to expand into Europe were announced this week, initially by selling cars in the UK, Germany and Switzerland. The brand has been around since 2015, but only available in Korea and the US, selling 130,000 vehicles in 2020.
But what is Genesis? Quite simply, an upmarket ‘luxury’ arm of mainstream brand Hyundai. This is not the first Far-East manufacturer to go that route, of course, but while others have seen success with their upmarket spin-offs in Asia and America, breaking the European market has not proven so easy.
Lexus is a prime example of the process working, today established on the European and UK market as a premium sister brand to Toyota. But while Nissan’s upmarket badge Infiniti has long been familiar in the US, launching in Europe in 2008 proved much more troublesome – by 2020, the brand admitted defeat and abandoned its European sales. Honda also has a premium brand called Acura in the US, but has never tried to bring it to this side of the Atlantic.
Genesis will be determined to avoid such difficulties, and will pin these hopes both on the fact that its new model line-up is led by electric cars at a time when EV sales are beginning to soar, plus a rather different way of selling its cars that will dispense with dealers and go directly to customers.
While saying that his cars boast “a distinctive design”, Genesis Motor Europe managing director Dominique Boesch is promising the brand will place customer service over sales. The ‘Genesis Promise’ will include what is described as a “transparent” pricing structure with a five-year care plan included in the cost and claiming no hidden extras. And these may well not be empty promises – the brand has topped the JD Power customer service survey for three years running in markets in which it already operates.
Sales of Genesis cars will be mainly online, but for customers who want to see what they are buying, this summer the brand will open ‘studios’. Initially, these flagship centres will be located in London’s Westfield shopping centre at Shepherd’s Bush, as well as similar venues in Munich and Zurich. According to Boesch, further studios will be located in similar luxury shopping environments around Europe.
“We want to create an environment in which the customer can discover the brand and its products and enjoy a stress-free ownership throughout the whole vehicle lifetime”, Boesch says. “We have optimised the Genesis experience so owners never need to visit a dealer again, with home pick-up and delivery at every step.”
The Genesis way of car ownership is set to be very different to the norm. Prospective customers will be encouraged to configure and order their car online, and the specifications and pricing structure have been greatly simplified to make this process easy. The five-year care plan will include warranty, servicing, roadside assistance, a courtesy car, software and sat nav map updates, maintained through the whole length of the plan.
Every owner will also be appointed a Genesis Personal Assistant, who will take full responsibility for every contact with the brand, from sales enquiries to co-ordinating service and maintenance bookings. According to Boesch, all the Personal Assistants have been recruited from backgrounds in high-end retail and hospitality sectors.
This non-dealer approach is not a first, of course, and it is a direction that parent company Hyundai has form in. The brand opened car ‘stores’ in the Bluewater and Westfield shopping centres but has run into some difficulties with them. In August 2019, dealer group Motorline gave up running the Bluewater store after just 16 months, stating that it did “not believe in the mid- to long-term viability” of the shopping centre new-car sales concept. Ancaster Group has since taken over the store for Hyundai.
The initial Genesis models on sale will be the G80 large saloon and GV80 large SUV – the newest models from the brand. These will be quickly followed by two more models, a mid-size saloon and SUV pair named the G70 and GV70, respectively.
Pricing and specifications for the new range of vehicles have yet to be confirmed. While the G80 and GV80 are already available elsewhere, Genesis says that they have been specially retuned for European roads. It also hasn’t confirmed whether European versions will feature the same drivetrains used in other markets. The G80 will be on sale in electric form by the end of 2021 but whether this will be with the 370hp dual-motor electric unit offered in other markets is yet to be revealed.
We do know that new electric vehicles will follow within the first year of sales, specifically designed for the European market and one built on a dedicated electric chassis. No details have been released on these cars but observers believe one could be a production version of the Mint small car concept that was unveiled in 2019.
“The marriage of luxury and electric is a natural step and we are fully committed to it,” Boesch says. “Our first electric Genesis will be on European roads within the year. Two more electric vehicles will follow within our first year – this is only possible because we are part of a large automotive group who are leaders in electrification.”
Boesch regards Europe as the spiritual home of the premium car market. “We will work hard, earn our place,” he says. “But we believe that we have the ingredients to be different, to stand out.”
So will Genesis follow the example of Lexus and prove a UK success, or Infiniti and descend into obscurity (and inevitable ‘Genesis to Exodus’ headlines…)? Only time will tell, but over a decade of soaring growth Hyundai has made few significant mistakes. We suspect we will soon be familiar with the cars of Genesis…