The potential is there, but the road ahead for Genesis is laden with potential pitfalls, no matter how much cash is used to insulate potential buyers and franchisees from the realities of the rocky premium market.
Genesis is not an experiment. It's the real deal. Hyundai's luxury spin-off is set to take on established players like Lexus, Acura, BMW, and Audi, and it's clutching huge fistfuls of money in both hands to get the job done. That being said, don't expect the brand to be a carbon copy of past premium efforts from Japan, as Hyundai has learned lessons from both the efforts of its rivals and its own multi-year run of selling the Genesis (now G80) and Equus (heavily redesigned as the G90) under its own banner.
Doing things different is good - but while the potential is there, the road ahead for Genesis is laden with potential pitfalls, no matter how much cash is used to insulate potential buyers and franchisees from the realities of the rocky automotive market. Here are three keys to success for the Genesis luxury brand as it carves out its Canadian niche.
1. Get Those Dealerships Built
In the United States, Genesis cars will be sold using a 'dealership within a dealership' model at existing Hyundai dealers currently selling the Equus, while awaiting separate brick-and-mortar stores to be built. In contrast, Genesis Canada has elected to completely divorce the brand from Hyundai right from the start, which means you'll never, ever find a Genesis sitting on the floor of a Hyundai dealer.
Instead, Canadian Genesis buyers will be asked to purchase their cars online, borrowing a page from Tesla's zero-dealer playbook, including all-in, no-haggle pricing that will encompass all fees like delivery and destination. This will be the standard until at least until 2021, when more traditional dealerships will arrive in major markets like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
The end goal is 30 locations country-wide, but in the meantime if you'd really like to test drive the Genesis G90 or Genesis G80 it will be possible to arrange a meet-up with a company representative at your own convenience, or visit temporary boutique-like stores located in malls and other high-traffic shopping areas (of which roughly a dozen are planned).
Given that each Genesis model comes with valet service for all maintenance and repairs, there's a certain logic to avoiding the potential confusion of pairing the luxury marque with Hyundai in the minds of Canadians. Still, the mix of online and pop-up storefronts isn't ideal, and a lack of dealerships contributed to the withdrawal of brands like Suzuki from the North American market altogether. The sooner they're built, the better.
2. Focus On The Owner Experience
Valet service isn't new from Hyundai - the Equus featured a similar program - but it's sitting at the core of what Genesis hopes will help separate it from Lexus et al. From the company's perspective time is the greatest luxury, and removing the need to visit a dealer for any type of servicing (while being provided with an equal or better automobile to drive once a valet has picked up your own vehicle) is a substantial draw for lifestyle-focused customers.
In Canada, it's clear that the valet service is even more critical, since there won't be any physical locations for Genesis owners to show up to should a repair become necessary - and the company is dead-set on keeping its new customers out of Hyundai stores altogether, so this applies to oil changes and tire rotations, too. While most Canadians live within easy driving distance of a city, our sprawling geography will prove to a be a challenge for dispersed Genesis buyers lurking in the hinterlands.
3. The SUVs Can't Get Here Fast Enough
The first two products launched by Genesis are both large sedans, with the G80 one of the bigger mid-size luxury cars currently available and the G90 filling in the extended-wheelbase executive role. Although American Hyundai dealers enjoyed a brisk business in selling the Hyundai Genesis upon which the G80 was based, in Canada it was a different story - and let's not focus too much on the fact that fewer than 50 Equus models were sold north of the border last year, either.
Genesis is clearly not relying on Canada to keep it afloat during its first five years on the market, but the G80 and G90 are merely the tip of the spear for the brand, as a pair of SUVs as well as a sporty coupe and an entry-level premium sedan are also in the works. It's the sport-utility vehicles that will make inroads for Genesis up north, as Canadians are addicted to ground clearance, all-wheel drive, and bulky greenhouses. Until they arrive, Genesis is most likely treading water trying to fight the trend of slowing sedan sales.