Will Genesis triumph where Infiniti failed? | Axon’s Automotive Anorak
Despite exceptional circumstances, the recent 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard delivered the usual mix of delights and surprises that we have all come to expect from this well-established benchmark annual event.
Although being involved with some of this year’s Festival content and having early sight of the event’s planned content, as always, a few motoring gems passed me by from the lists and printed programme pages that were great and exciting to see in the metal and put a real smile of satisfaction on my face (even if sometimes hidden by a face mask!).
The top paddock line-up of Penske cars was truly breath-taking, as was the display of Martini-liveried Lancia rally and track racers. One of the most unexpected and surprising automotive pleasures at this July’s Festival however was the sight of a fleet of new Genesis models using the celebrated Goodwood Hill as official event vehicles, the first time I had had the opportunity to really see and admire these handsome premium machines in motion.
Genesis is Hyundai’s recent new ‘manufactured’ premium brand, it being to Hyundai what Lexus is to Toyota and Audi is to Volkswagen as a luxury prestige range-topping marque. Now being launched in earnest in the UK and other key European markets, Hyundai’s short-term memory has clearly failed it in the excitement of introducing its premium Genesis brand, as the marque has already existed in Europe before (despite Hyundai’s claims), previously sold (in small numbers, mainly to South Korean diplomats and internal senior Hyundai management) as the top-draw Hyundai Genesis model. This was quietly replaced by Genesis as a new stand-along brand (with no Hyundai branding), having previously been displayed in separate Genesis-branded exhibition stands at prestige European motor shows such as Paris and Geneva.
After some years of deliberation, Hyundai clearly now means business with Genesis, wisely waiting to launch (or should that be, re-launch!) its premium brand into the heart of the tough European prestige/executive sector, currently dominated by the established German premium marques of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Legitimately taking a seat at the top table, sitting alongside these established and successful German prestige brands, is a very tough call, as failed premium players such as Infiniti (Nissan’s failed executive make; ) plus long-admired and established names such as Jaguar, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Lexus, and Cadillac, Lincoln and Honda’s Acura in North America, can testify. Beating the German brand’s stranglehold in this market prestige luxury segment is certainly a very tough and costly task!
Despite their very best and gallant efforts (particularly in the cases of Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Volvo and Lexus, the latter taking three decades to establish a foothold in the large and lucrative European premium new car market that Infiniti, Saab, Rover and Lancia bailed out of in the early 21st Century, although thankfully Lancia is due for a re-launch soon-ish under its new Stellantis ownership) all of these trusted and once-admired marques have failed to make any serious inroads into the dominance of the German prestige brands, despite the latter’s exclusivity and refinement levels often left wanting in recent years, as quantity has ruled over quality.
Quite way highly competent premium models such as the Jaguar XF, Alfa Romeo Giulia and or Volvo S90 have failed to tempt sheep-like buyers away from the dominant but predictable German executive saloons remains a mystery to me, although the (unfair) lower residual values of the none-German cars doesn’t help their showroom and online appeal, with the higher monthly rental and leasing costs of these ‘outcast’ alternatives.
Hyundai has had limited but previous experience in attempting to woo would-be Mercedes or Audi buyers, with laughable previous attempts such as the plush but woeful XG350 and Grandeur models, these depreciating like a very hot stone but becoming favourites with top-line, high-mileage minicab owners.
Now having had the chance to see and inspect the full Genesis re-launch model range at close quarters at the Festival of Speed, the cars have made a strong and positive impression on me (plus quite a few other Goodwood visitors, judging my some of the encouraging comments a number of media, friends and spectators made to me over the Festival weekend).
The Genesis G80 premium saloon, plus the G70 and highly distinctive estate, look like admirable alternatives to the now mainstream German rivals, with the blandly-named GV80 being a particularly finely-styled SUV, looking not unlike a certain familiar prestige SUV made by an exclusive top-line luxury British motor car maker based in Crewe, but dare I say with a more harmonious and pleasing design and an aura of elegance and attention to detail that the Crewe ‘Chelsea tractor’ sadly lacks.
In its marketing blurb, Genesis claims the brand and its models believe in and reflect simplicity as the ultimate sophistication, with the added USP of offering its pioneering early-adopter customers a truly tailored service, with personal assistance to make the cars’ ownership experience as pleasant, painless and convenient as possible.
Although pricing, residual values and ease of ownership will be key to success or failure (along with future BEV model plans), I sincerely hope that Hyundai can make its new Genesis brand work in the UK and Europe where the likes of Nissan’s Infiniti and others have either previously failed, or taken a painfully long time to establish themselves as credible German alternatives, such as Lexus.
Here’s also hoping that the added presence of Genesis might help to remove the blinkers from so many premium car buyers eyes too, and assist them in realising that they don’t have to have a German badge on the grille to own and appreciate a fine quality motor car from a genuine alternative prestige car maker. Live long and prosper Genesis!
Photography by James Lynch, Matt Dunkinson and Matt Sills.