Australia is the latest high-profile target for Genesis, the world’s newest prestige car brand.
Genesis will rev up in December with two cars, – the sporty G70 and luxury G80 – and three sites which move away from traditional car dealerships in favour of shopping precincts in inner-city malls - at Pitt Street in Sydney, Bourke Street in Melbourne and Elizabeth Street in Brisbane.
If the Genesis name sounds familiar it’s because the badge was first fitted to an upscale Hyundai in 2016 in a trial that worked best for hire car drivers, but things have changed massively since then.
Genesis is now a standalone division of the South Korean car making conglomerate which is responsible for Hyundai and Kia, just as Lexus was spun up and away from Toyota in 1989 and Nissan did the same thing in the same year with its Infiniti brand.
In Australia, Genesis will step away from the shadow of its Korean parent brand simultaneous with the opening of its three flagship stores and the local launch of the Genesis G70 and G80 models.
“This is the most challenging adventure the company has engaged in. But it’s a very logical step,” the CEO of Genesis, Manfred Fitzgerald, tells Australian Business Traveller.
“We are painting each and every day, we are filling the pages of a new book. We have new opportunities.”
Those opportunities start with the G70 and G80, which both have sporty driving DNA and old-school rear-wheel drive, but they will be quickly followed by a pair of SUV models from 2019.
A preview drive in the USA shows the cars are better than expected, with Lexus-style cabin quality and a driving feel that’s closest to a BMW.
Fitzgerald promises showroom stickers that undercut equivalent BMWs by around 15 per cent, which points to a starting price for the G70 that should be just below $55,000 in Australia.
Even so, Fitzgerald says the focus for Genesis is as much on the brand experience – starting from the black-and-copper theming in dealerships – as the cars.
“I’m a true believer that people buy brands, not products. It's more than concentrating on the product itself,” he shares. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s there. But it does not end there.”
Fitzgerald is a former head of Lamborghini who took six years away from the car industry before being hired to lead Genesis.
He believes that a start-up provides more opportunities, particularly with the massive muscle provided by a parent company as successful as Hyundai.
“We don’t have the ballast there, of having a large history behind us,” he reflects.
Fitzgerald has made two scouting trips to Australia, visiting both Sydney and Melbourne, and this is one reason for standalone dealerships instead of operating Genesis as a Hyundai satellite from existing premises.
“We’re going more for the direct model," Fitzgerald explains. "We want to own the whole value chain. We want to bring the messages across, control the message.”
Genesis is not making any big sales predictions for Australia, although Fitzgerald is quietly hopeful of a solid start.
“We’re not rushing this. We believe we should grow organically. We will take it step-by step. It will be a very cautious approach, very thoughtful.”