Curbside Newsstand: GV80 Crossover Part of Planned ‘Quantum Jump’ for Genesis

Like any immigrant trying to make it in America, Genesis has had its fair share of struggles. Hyundai’s fledgling luxury brand launched with several sedans right before crossovers skyrocketed in popularity. The Korean automaker also flip flopped on standalone stores. It was a sign executives didn’t have a concrete launch plan. With the past receding further into the rear view mirror, Genesis is extremely confident in its future. They’re getting ready for what is essentially Phase II of Genesis in America. It involves the GV80, some pomp and circumstance, and a bit of faith.

The future of Genesis rests on the shoulders of the GV80. Obviously, no one at Genesis is saying that. But it’s not hard to see why the upcoming crossover is critically important for the brand. Luxury shoppers aren’t terribly interested in vehicles with a trunk, and at the moment, Genesis exclusively sells them. To be fair, the Genesis G70, G80, and G90 received positive accolades from the press, and the trio pivoted the brand right to the top of Consumer Reports’ latest annual reliability ranking. But no automaker can make it solely on sedans these days.

Korea’s take on automotive luxury gets a bit of a boost with the GV80. It wears the trademark Genesis grille, but departs from the sedans with lighting housed in four separate and quite thin strips. The look is immediately distinctive and should help the brand gain recognition. When it launches in America later this year, it will officially begin the second phase of the brand’s “3+2+1” strategy. The three sedans were the first prong, with the GV80 and another unreleased crossover serving as the follow up. The third product will be an electric crossover. Genesis plans for the unreleased crossover and EV to arrive at dealerships by the end of 2021.

Basically, Genesis is betting their upcoming vehicles will serve as a catalyst for substantial growth. The brand’s head honcho, William Lee, isn’t stopping there:

“We call it a ‘quantum jump,’ ” Lee, 60, told Automotive News here last month in his first interview since taking the helm of the Genesis division Nov. 1. “There is no reason we cannot grow significantly. In two years, we will have a very strong six-vehicle portfolio.”

Lee’s game plan envisions a 30 percent surge in U.S. sales in 2020 and an even bigger increase in 2021. This year, he says, global sales will exceed 100,000 for the first time. They are forecast to climb to 116,000 from a target of less than 90,000 in 2019.

The North American market accounts for about 30 percent of sales, while the home market of South Korea contributes the remaining 70 percent.

Aside from product, Genesis is looking for street cred. To put it more eloquently, they’re planning on introducing themselves into New York City’s social scene by establishing an “experience center” in the Meatpacking District. The new facility opens this spring and will offer more than just a showroom. In addition to displaying Genesis vehicles, the space will also house a restaurant with Korean cuisine, a library, and a venue for cultural events. Lee believes America is crucial for the brand’s global ambitions. He is confident that positive buzz in America will lead to success in Europe and China.

Genesis also plans to keep up its sponsorship of various sporting events. Chief among them is the 2020 Super Bowl. Beyond that, Genesis is currently the official luxury vehicle of the National Football League. The brand also sponsors the Los Angeles leg of the PGA Tour.

On the more practical side of things, Hyundai is working with dealers to establish standalone stores for Genesis. The company stumbled several years ago when it allowed Genesis products to be sold at a large number of Hyundai dealerships before dumping that business model. Currently, the plan is for select Hyundai dealers to establish standalone stores as soon as possible. Part of that strategy hinges on a change to Hyundai’s dealer pay system. Instead of paying dealers a flat rate for each car they sell, Hyundai will introduce a variable pay scheme, which reimburses dealers based on several metrics, including dealership upgrades.

With sales totaling 21,233 vehicles in 2019, Genesis has a long way to go. And the road to rapid expansion isn’t laid out for them. In an early review of the GV80, Car And Driver criticized the crossover for its small size, noting the lack of space in its third row. At 194 inches long, the Genesis is substantially shorter than the Cadillac XT6 and Lincoln Aviator, arguably its two biggest rivals. And the brand has yet to define itself. Genesis executives cannot easily explain why customers should choose their vehicles over the competition, simply stating they’re focused on “building the brand.” This phenomenon is not limited to Korea, as Cadillac has been saying the exact same thing for years now. Genesis needs an identity beyond an aesthetic. Fortunately, their relative youth means they don’t carry the type of baggage associated with the American luxury automakers. But that doesn’t mean the market will accept them unconditionally. If their crossovers fail to gain an audience, Hyundai have to take a hard look at Genesis. And their dealers probably won’t be too happy either.