Hyundai preps prestige onslaught Big game poaching

Luxury brand Genesis to launch six models in four years, including a 3 Series rival, an M4-fi ghter and two SUVs

GLENN BUTLER

HYUNDAI’S ambitions for its Genesis luxury spin-off brand stepped up two gears with the revelation it will launch six new models in the next four years, including two crossovers and a premium sports coupe.

Genesis will also benefit from Hyundai’s ‘N’ department, similar to BMW’s M Division, which will be tasked with turning out highlyfocused sporting versions of many Hyundai and Genesis models, including a twin-turbocharged Coupe to rival the BMW M4.

Hyundai is empire-building, and sparing no expense as it goes after the posh end of town. The Korean company that made its name in the 1990s producing cut-price cars is now focusing on the lucrative prestige market.

Not only has Hyundai grabbed Luc Donckerwolke, a Belgian designer with experience at Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley, it has also poached the previous boss of BMW M, Albert Biermann, to lead its engineering team.

If that wasn’t enough, in late 2015 it lured Lamborghini’s director of brand and design, Manfred Fitzgerald, to head up its Genesis luxury brand globally.

The Genesis brand will stand above Hyundai in a similar way that Lexus does to Toyota.

It will have six dedicated new models – not shared with Hyundai models – by 2020 to not only help differentiate it from its parent but carve a slice of the premium market from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The first car to fly the flag for Genesis globally will be the Equus replacement revealed at the 2016 Detroit show as the Genesis G90, a large rear-drive luxury sedan to rival 7 Series and S-Class.

The G90 will be powered by a choice of the company’s new 272kW 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, the existing 3.8-litre V6 offered in the Australian Genesis sedan, and a 5.0-litre V8.

It has huge potential in North America and China, but there are no plans for right-hand drive, so it won’t come to Australia.

Hyundai is sparing no expense as it goes after the posh end of town

Manfred Fitzgerald

Hyundai VP, Genesis brand Former Lamborghini brand mgr

Albert Biermann

Head of engineering Former BMW M chief

Luc Donckerwolke

Hyundai prestige design director Former head of Bentley design

“For the future … if you go to performance it might be you need to go to turbo” - Albert Biermann, Hyundai vehicle development boss

Mid-2016, the Hyundai Genesis sedan that introduced the brand name to Australia will be rechristened Genesis G80 and be treated to a light spec and mechanical update. It’s unlikely to get the 3.3-litre turbo until a later, more comprehensive upgrade, though the existing 3.8-litre V6 may come in for performance and efficiency improvements.

In 2017, Genesis will launch its first all-new model on an all-new platform, a Mercedes C-Class rival badged G70. This mid-size car, likely to be revealed in concept form at the New York show in late March and powered by the 3.3 twin-turbo V6, will initially be offered as a sedan; a coupe will follow in late-2017 or 2018, while a convertible is also a possibility.

Hyundai USA president Dave Zuchowski told Wheels the G70 will be the first car to show what Genesis is really capable of. “This BMW 3 Series-fighter is the first real lightning flash that comes down in terms of ‘Wow, these guys are really working’,” he said.

Both the sedan and coupe will be prime candidates for the nascent N performance division, led by former BMW M boss Biermann. It’s not known whether it will turn the wick up on the 3.3-litre V6, or add two more cylinders to produce a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 to go up against AMG’s 375kW V8TT and BMW’s 317kW twin-turbo six.

An alternative to Hyundai’s existing 5.0-litre V8 is needed because it’s on borrowed time.

Biermann all but ruled it out for the G70, saying, “For the future … if you go to performance it might be you need to go to turbo”.

Zuchowski also confirmed that Genesis will launch two crossovers by 2020. “Think

of [them] as [BMW] X3 and X5, one based off of the [new] platform, one based off Genesis platform.”

No names were given for these cars, but both are surely candidates for N performance packs to rival the X3M and X5M.

“This isn’t just something we’re talking about; this is something we’re throwing considerable resources, people and dollars against,” Zuchowski said.

“And some people may never accept that ... they can’t come to terms with it. And that’s fine. In reality, in a blind taste test if you will, these cars are going to be outstanding.”

Hyundai Australia is excited by the opportunities presented by the Genesis brand’s coming product portfolio. While the G90 is ruled out, each new model in the line-up will be considered.

2020 for Santa Cruz

Australia may have to wait up to seven years to get Hyundai’s Santa Cruz lifestyle utility, which has been confirmed for production.

Wheels has been told the significant development push and investment from Hyundai’s North American division almost certainly rules out any chances of the Santa Cruz being developed for right-hand-drive markets in its initial instalment, which could be as early as 2017.

While the Santa Cruz is Hyundai s ultimately planned for export markets – “From our perspective it’s a vehicle that will be exported to other markets,” says Hyundai product planning vice-president Mike O’Brien – initially the ambitious Korean brand is keen to cement its place in the US, where most sales will be made.

The prospects of a right-handdrive model lie with a likely update around 2020 or, more likely, a second-generation Santa Cruz in about 2023.

Genesis NSX rival?

Hyundai is working on a topsecret supercar – that’s right, a supercar – as a flagship to its new Genesis luxury range and upcoming N performance model range.

Wheels has learnt that the Genesis supercar is currently being developed, with Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-AMG in its crosshairs, and Hyundai has been testing rival cars at its Namyang proving ground in Korea.

Speaking at the 2016 Detroit motor show in January, Hyundai vice-president of product planning Mike O’Brien all but confirmed the supercar.

Asked if a halo car could be used to shine a spotlight on the brand in the same way Lexus used the LFA and Honda the NSX, O’Brien was forthright.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “And [new performance chief] Albert Biermann, who we hired from BMW M, is actively working on that right now.”

Biermann was guarded when quizzed about details, but revealed the supercar would be turbocharged and could use some form of electrification.