Hyundai on Lexus: If Toyota can do it, why not us

We really want to give Hyundai a lot of credit for their ambitious plan to move upscale, but we’ll have to wait and see how well the new Genesis luxury sedan is received when its hits dealerships this summer.

“The Genesis will upgrade our image” across a range of buyers, says Frank Shin. “Then they can believe in the Veracruz, Sonata and so on.”

The launch of the new flagship is crucial to Hyundai’s image, which improved after its two Super Bowl spots showing off the new Genesis.

In its first year, Hyundai will be exporting only 20,000 units of Genesis with a domestic target of 35,000. In 2009, Hyundai will increase its export of the Genesis to 45,000 units.

“Genesis symbolizes our determination to enter the highly competitive arena of luxury cars now dominated by the Europeans,” Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-Koo said at the car’s launch in Korea. However, Hyundai is really targeting its Japanese rivals. The Lexus GS and the Infiniti M will be the Genesis’ primary competitors.

Hyundai has spent about $600 million over four years in the development of the luxury sedan. Originally it had planned to offer the Genesis as a separate brand altogether but rejected the idea because of marketing expense. Lee Hyun-Soon, head of the corporate r&d at Hyundai, says that if the Genesis proves to be a success, the Korean automaker could offer it as luxury brand in five years.

Lee says that Hyundai has been thinking about a luxury car since the first Lexus LS 400 came to the U.S. 20 years ago. “If Toyota can do it, why not us?” Lee recalls thinking at the time. “Maybe some day, we can also do it.”

At the very least, Hyundai hopes that the Genesis will raise its image to the level of Toyota or Honda.

 

2009 Hyundai Genesis Gallery:

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Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)

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