In the beginning, Hyundai Motor created the Pony, which in the mid-1980s quickly became a rusting tin can. The Pony wore a sub-$5,000 price tag and was sold through what was then perhaps the worst dealer network imaginable.
Then, decades later, Hyundai created a luxury brand based on the highly successful German model. Hyundai’s Genesis was sent into the world to be fruitful, to grow and to conquer BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi in particular, as well as Jaguar, Volvo and others in general.
Genesis pioneered new ways to reach buyers – a customized sales, delivery and pickup service that eschews the traditional dealer model; a well-conceived online experience that ties the customer directly to the manufacturer; displays in airports and malls; cars with a five-year warranty; and, of course, some pretty good cars with their ride and handling engineered in part by Germans recruited to work for the South Korean car company.
Genesis pricing was set well below the Germans. Soon, the brand topped J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study. Consumer Reports had good things to say, as well. In crash tests, Genesis earned Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Alas, customers have remained skeptical. Through the first three-quarters of this year, just 1,180 customers have purchased a Genesis of any sort. In September, Canadians took home 3,959 BMW-brand vehicles; Genesis moved just 137 cars (data supplied by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants).
Genesis remains limited by a three-sedan lineup completely out of whack with the SUV (sport-utility vehicle) love affair sweeping automotive markets worldwide. The Genesis cars, though, are solid, handsome and well priced. The base G70 sedan, for instance, starts at $42,150, while the least expensive BMW 3-Series is a whopping $49,000. FORTY-NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
Genesis officials remain patient; the challenges of building a brand from the so-called “grass roots” are overwhelming.
As any analyst and all car company executives will tell you, there are three tiers of volume or aspiring-to-volume luxury car brands. At the top are the Germans — Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as Porsche. Next come a kind of muddle of mid-tier players — Toyota’s Lexus, Nissan’s Infiniti, Honda’s Acura, Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover, Geely’s Volvo, Ford’s Lincoln and General Motors’ Cadillac. At the bottom and barely noticeable is Hyundai’s Genesis.
Even now, few Canadians even think about Genesis. Fewer still have thought about booking a test drive. In a country of 37 million, 100 or so Canadians brave a Genesis purchase each month.
Genesis plans to add perhaps three SUVs to the lineup and they will boost sales. In the meantime, a noteworthy addition is the G70 3.3T Prestige, another variant in the G70 line (the others being the G70 2.0T 8AT and the G70 Sport 2.0T 6MT).
This car is a departure. Where the other two put their emphasis on quick responses and driving entertainment — what with all-wheel drive standard on the automatic 8AT car, and rear-drive with a six-speed manual gearbox in the Sport — the V-6 Prestige is somewhat more sedate. More powerful, too: a twin-turbo 365 horsepower V-6 versus 252 hp from the others’ 2.0-litre turbo four.
The Genesis spin goes like this: “…many customers yearned for a non-sport, fully-loaded G70 with a V-6.” To meet customer demand, Genesis made the Prestige V-6. Of course, there is a Sport version of the G70 with the V-6 and there is a Prestige version of the four-banger. The 3.3T Sport is sold only with a black interior, while the Prestige offers a variety of coloured leather interiors.
At $52,000 plus all the various fees and taxes and any add-ons for the four-cylinder Prestige model and $56,000 for the V-6, this sedan is nicely priced. You’ll spend much more for any comparable German. I certainly like the Prestige’s machined 19-inch alloy wheels shod with fat Michelin rubber. And the Brembo brake are amazing.
The roster of high-tech bits and pieces can fill a memory stick. Genesis is as modern as the Germans, but at a much lower price.
The problem for Genesis isn’t the cars, but of course the brand. It has no history and little cachet, which makes it a non-starter with the vast majority of brand-conscious luxury buyers. Snobs? Of course. You could argue that the 3-Series is a bid tidier in its driving responses. But $7,000-plus tidier? Really.
And looks? The G70 is a nice enough design, though careful and clearly intended NOT to offend, nor to look like anything other than a German car of some sort. At least for the untrained or uninitiated eye. Quality is very good, so far, the seats are fine, the technology all very 21st century.
If I were looking for a very nice, very useful, personal-size premium sedan, one with fine responses and one clearly designed to be as trouble-free as possible, then the G70 would be in the running – as long as I intended to own it for 10 years or lease it on the company tab.
Because until Genesis as a brand makes a bigger and better mark, the early depreciation will remain a challenge and bragging rights are of no value to wealthy car owners who value status at least as much as excellence.
2020 Genesis G70 3.3T Prestige AWD
Engine: 3.3-litre V-6, twin turbo (365 horsepower/376 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.1 city/9.5 hwy using premium fuel.
(Note: An earlier version of this story may have implied that Genesis models are sold through a traditional dealer network. Genesis models are delivered and serviced through a Canadian network of 23 distributors, but the cars are actually sold through a direct sales model, manufacturer to customer. This version also noted in the specifications that the V-6 Prestige model retails for $56,000, though earlier the story might have been less than clear that the four-cylinder Prestige model retails for $52,000. In both matters, the article has been slightly adjusted to make these matters crystal clear.)