Hyundai to target premium brand rivals with Genesis
Hyundai is planning to create a premium rival to Lexus and Infiniti when it brings its Genesis range to the UK in three years' time.
The cars - a sporty coupe, executive saloon and luxury limousine - would be sold from a specialist network of dealers set up specifically to deal with Genesis models.
Hyundai's UK managing director Tony Whitehorn wants Genesis to become known as a standalone brand with a unique identity giving the premium cars 'more credibility' in the UK.
'Lexus did a great job in the states, but it never really took off in Europe to the same extent,' said Whitehorn. 'But the premium route is certainly an interesting one and it's one that could work for us with the Genesis brand in the UK.'
There are currently trials taking place in Europe to see if car buyers will accept Genesis as separate to Hyundai.
The trials couldn't take place in the UK as there were no right-hand drive cars available - those are unlikely to arrive until late 2012.
However, the Hyundai chief is under no illusions as to how big a task it would be to hive off a premium arm from a brand built on budget cars in this country.
'We would have to be very careful as there isn't actually a successful model in the UK where a mainstream brand has made a success of premium,' explained Whitehorn.
'It would be very brave for us. It would be a good route to market for these cars, but also a very difficult one.' The Genesis models are certainly different to the cars UK Hyundai buyers are used to.
Up to now the brand's bread and butter sales have been made up of machines like the 1.2-litre i10 city car. That was the undoubted star of last year's Scrappage Scheme finding 27,000 homes.
The Genesis models are a different breed altogether. The Coupe is a sports car rival to the Nissan 370Z and features a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine or 3.8-litre V6. The Genesis Saloon is a rival to the Mercedes E-Class and won critical acclaim in the US when it was awarded North American Car of the Year in 2009.
And the luxury limousine Equus model is a rival to the Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class. All undercut rivals by a healthy margin of between seven and 10 per cent.
'This idea is an interesting strategy. It has worked in America and could work here,' added Whitehorn. 'First we need to get the right-hand drive models, then we'd go about setting up the dealer network.'
Whitehorn explained that he would want 20 per cent of his 152 dealers to be set up as Genesis outlets, all with dedicated salesman for the brand.
'That's the only way it could work - it would give Genesis more credibility and differentiates it from Hyundai,' he added. The boss of the brand's biggest selling dealer in Europe, Richmond Cars in Hampshire, thinks it could work though. Dealer principal Michael Nobes said: 'Hyundai buyers are ready for a move like this.'