Genesis shows its future with concept car
New York – At the New York auto show this week Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand rolled out a show-stopping ceramic-blue concept with copper highlights called the “New York Concept.” Big, bold and dramatic, it is a classic, one-off design concept made from bespoke materials that will never make production: carbon-fiber body, 3-D-printed details like “cheese-grater” side vents, and a futuristic, curved instrument display right out of a “Star Trek” movie.
But the New York Concept is still one of the most significant cars in the show because it makes a big statement: Genesis is not Hyundai.
“We are in the starting point of the brand,” said Hyundai Chief Designer Thomas Burkle. “The idea is to shape the brand and say what Genesis is really about.”
After years of consideration, Korea’s largest automaker has decided to spin off Genesis as an athletic, affordable luxury brand aimed at the U.S. market — just as other manufacturers have before it. Lincoln and Audi have long been the luxury divisions for Ford and Volkswagen respectively, while more recently Japanese giants Toyota (Lexus), Honda (Acura) and Nissan (Infiniti) have also created premium marques.
But unlike those manufacturers, which share front-wheel drive with their parent company’s mainstream products, Genesis will build separate, rear-wheel drive chassis like Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo. On the other hand, Hyundai will not immediately create Genesis dealerships. Learning the difficult financial lessons of Acura and Infiniti, Genesis will continue to be offered as premium cars within Hyundai dealerships as the brand builds identity in the luxury market.
The New York Concept is key to distinguishing Genesis’ style from its Hyundai parent.
The midsize Genesis (soon to be Genesis G80) and big G90 (introduced at the Detroit Auto Show) are the brand’s first, rear-wheel drive sedans. The New York Concept takes the same basic design language of its production siblings — then previews future design and products, most significantly a G70 sedan that will surely be the brand’s volume leader.
“There is some link from this car to a future G70,” says designer Burkle. Other sources have gone further, telling The Detroit Bureau that the New York Concept, known internally as the IK and bearing the same dimensions as a small luxury car, will be badged the Genesis G70 and take on BMW’s 3-series and Audi’s A4. A production version will likely offer a variety of drivetrains in addition to the concept’s hybrid system. The car’s platform will ultimately support two additional Hyundai models: A compact crossover and sports coupe.
Signaling its determination to build a German-fighting luxury brand, Genesis hired away Burkle from BMW and design boss Peter Schreyer from Audi to sculpt Genesis’ signature design (its Audi-like “shield grille” is certainly his inspiration).
“The concept has short overhangs in the front, pushing the front wheels as far out as possible,” says Burkle. “Then the shape pushes out and emphasizes the rear wheels. You create a luxury car where you not only want to sit in the rear — you want to drive it. Maybe this is a little bit of European spice that we add. It’s fun to drive.”
He also emphasizes the “Korean way of thinking” in design, particularly the show car’s simple lines and the ceramic color.
Hyundai is also learning from the Japanese luxury experience. Or unlearning it.
Peter Lanzavecchia, a Hyundai-Genesis dealer in Philadelphia, also owned an Acura dealer when Honda first launched its luxury brand in separate dealerships.
“With Acura it was tough to open up a dedicated facility for a brand that hadn’t earned its premium stripes yet,” he said at the Genesis event. “Genesis will be more transitional. We can start the brand in Hyundai’s showrooms, and then as we grow awareness and product we can bring them into stand-alone facilities.”
“This is not a show car. It’s a glimpse into the future for Genesis,” said senior designer Luc Donckerwolke at the unveiling.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Reach him at email@example.com. Or Twitter: @HenryEPayne