Prospective customers expecting a typical dealership experience are sure to be plenty surprised.

– Toronto, Ontario

The Genesis brand launched back in November of last year, and while its cars have been on sale for several months, as of this week, Hyundai's new luxury brand has officially gone from "digital-only" to something much more palpable.

That's because the first Canadian retail Genesis store has officially opened in Toronto on the east side of the city's well-known and well-travelled Queen Street. Prospective customers expecting a typical dealership experience are sure to be plenty surprised, though. Canada recently had a chance to check out the new digs, and to chat with Brand Director of Genesis, Michael Ricciuto. He explained why the word "Hyundai" wouldn't be mentioned much in the boutique, the direction behind the location's art style, and which Canadian city would be the home base for the global design of all future Genesis retail locations.

Genesis gets physical with opening of Canadian boutique
Genesis gets physical with opening of Canadian boutique

Up until now, those interested in purchasing a G80 or G90 (the only two Genesis models currently on sale in Canada) would fill out a form online, and have a representative visit them with a vehicle for a test drive. Anyone ready to actually purchase a car would do everything—from purchasing insurance to factoring in a trade-in you may have—through their computer, and considering the brand's all-in, no-haggle pricing, it's an atypical process that actually makes a lot of sense for Genesis.

With the new boutique in Toronto—as well as a few more planned to come to other cities before the end of 2017—visitors can look at, touch, and sit in the sedans, just like they would in a dealership. The difference with Genesis, though, is that there aren't any high-pressure sales tactics being put on display by salespeople.

When we walk in to the boutique, it really does give off a laid-back feel, with large, high-quality images of Genesis cars sitting on the walls, a group of comfortable black chairs in the central area, and three vehicles—windows open to show off their interiors—sitting just a few steps away. There's no attached service area, and no walled offices where you go to hash out minute details of your imminent purchase.

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The exposed concrete walls are inspired by the König art gallery in Berlin, Germany, and were specifically chosen as a way to keep the focus on the cars themselves and make them "pop." It doesn't hurt that the smell of delicious espresso is constantly wafting in from the espresso bar next door. No generic coffee from a machine here.

When I ask Riciutto if the brand's "agents" (the Matrix-esque term Genesis uses for salespeople at the physical locations) ever mention Hyundai to consumers who may know nothing of the luxury brand, he says "we're trying not to; we're trying to stay separate for obvious reasons." He notes that unlike some other luxury brands such as Lexus, Genesis models incorporate a sport platform and components completely separate and wholly unique from Hyundai models. As he puts it, Genesis models will be "true luxury vehicles." So while leveraging a well-known brand like Hyundai may make sense sometimes, it's not a priority when it comes to selling Genesis vehicles.

Riciutto notes that another feather in the cap of Genesis Canada is that an upcoming downtown Montreal location will actually be the pilot for the global design architecture of all physical Genesis locations. The plan is that all locations around the world will share the same design guidelines, so the Montreal store will be the epicentre of that new look, and will be designed with the guidance of the folks at Hyundai's Korean headquarters.

Genesis gets physical with opening of Canadian boutique
Genesis gets physical with opening of Canadian boutique

And while it's not surprising to hear that larger cities such as Montreal and Vancouver will be the first to get physical standalone Genesis locations, the plan—eventually—is for Genesis to become much more far-reaching in Canada. Riciutto points out that while there are 31 physical locations already picked out for Genesis in Canada, the plan is to move to smaller markets once the brand is more established, and once the lineup grows. Riciutto points to the existence of future Genesis SUVs as a way to justify moving to additional Canadian cities.

It will be interesting to see just how long it will take Genesis to become established from its current humble roots, but with the launch of the Toronto boutique, the luxury marque has taken a significant step toward placing a not-so-virtual foothold in the minds of luxury car buyers.


Photos: Daniel Barron / Motor1 Canada, Genesis Canada


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