The 2021 Genesis G80 will roll into U.S. showrooms next month, marking the refresh of the South Korean brand’s key product line, but it’s the coming year that will be the real test for the luxury marque with a wave of new products set to debut that will double its line-up.
In all, Genesis will have six different models in hand, U.S. CEO Mark Del Rosso said during a Monday media webinar, including the first two Genesis SUVs, as well as its first all-electric model – which is also going to be a crossover, two company officials told TheDetroitBureau.com on background.
With still more products entering development, the question is whether Genesis will follow the lead of so many of its luxury competitors – as well as parent brand Hyundai – and start building some of its models in the U.S.
“Given our plans and given the development of the brand … it is my opinion we should consider every possibility,” including U.S. production,” Del Rosso said. “But for now we are focused on Korea” as the sole Genesis production site.
Barely five years old, the Genesis brand has faced plenty of challenges, especially after announcing that it would ask dealers to set up separate showrooms and no longer sell its products alongside more mainstream Hyundai models.
With all the new product coming, said Del Rosso, dealers will be asked to invest even more in the brand, adding “They realize they’re going to have to invest to develop the brand even further.”
For the moment, Genesis has to get by with just three sedans, a challenge in an SUV-crazed U.S. market. Even so, and despite the sharp downturn in sedan sales, Genesis has fared well, gaining market share with models such as the flagship G90 and the near-luxury G70, a compact sports sedan that was named North American Car of the Year shortly after its debut.
It has helped to win numerous third-party kudos. The brand was the number one nameplate
overall in this year’s J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, and the top premium brand in Power’s Initial Quality Study, as well. All three of the current Genesis products, meanwhile, have earned Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
But the brand’s real test will come during the year ahead, according to industry analysts, as it rolls out a pair of new utility vehicles. The first, the GV80, will arrive shortly after the launch of the G80 makeover and will share key underpinnings with the sedan. What is expected to be a smaller crossover, based on the same platform as the G70 sedan, will launch in 2021 as a 2022 model.
The first all-electric Genesis, likewise, will opt for a crossover body style, though specific details are vague. The EV will be part of a wave of battery vehicles to come from the Hyundai Motor Group during the next few years, with Genesis expected to have several EVs in its product portfolio around mid-decade, according to company insiders.
Without the long heritage that key competitors like Mercedes-Benz and BMW can point to, Genesis officials continue to experiment with finding the right visual DNA for the brand. While there are advantages to having a history, “Sometimes heritage is a big weight on your shoulders for a designer,” said global design chief SangYup Lee, during Monday’s webinar. “We are building the heritage … right now.”
Genesis, he added, intends to emphasize its design language, but the brand also aims to win buyers in other ways, including an array of concierge-style services, such as free pick-up and delivery for service and repairs. Pricing also is being used as a tool. The new G80, which goes up against better-known models such as the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, starts at $47,700, with a fully loaded model with the optional twin-turbo 3.5-liter engine pushing that to $67,700. The newly updated E-Class, by comparison, starts at $54,050.
“Our mission,” said Del Rosso, “is to disrupt and dominate the luxury consumer mobility space by providing the best solutions that exceed our clients’ mobility needs and expectations.”
Genesis sales still lag well behind those of key competitors, but recent growth suggests it could post a more serious challenge as it expands its line-up, especially by finally getting into the SUV market.