Hyundai has recently launched it’s new Genesis line of cars. They are to be vehicles of quality far beyond what you’d expect from the conventional Sonata and more inline with higher-end European imports. If the brand name sounds familiar, that’s because Hyundai has been trying and failing at selling a car into the luxury market called Hyundai Genesis for some time now.
Why have they had such a hard time of it under the Hyundai name? It’s a question of how far you can stretch the qualities of a brand before its limits are reached. Since it’s arrival in the US, the Hyundai automobile has developed a reputation for a reliable, cost-effective product. Increasingly, it’s been known to be of perhaps higher quality than equally-priced vehicles in their markets. I’d assume that the Sonata is to be put against the Ford Fusion, but really it could easily compete with it’s larger, more robust sibling, the Taurus. That’s how to create value. Hyundai is a master at it. The problem is that the luxury automobile market is not connected by a gradient of quality from standard car offerings. It’s a tribe unto its own. Just as a company like Cadillac has issues reaching down to the middle market, a brand like Hyundai has just as difficult a time reaching up.
A luxury car owner wants to be portrayed as set apart from the commoners, and that’s part of the reason for the difference in price. Quality is almost secondary to the inherent billboard that states the owner of a BMW or a Lincoln has the financial means to purchase one. The Genesis may always have had the qualities like a Lincoln but the name doesn’t garner that same economic pedestal that the latter’s badge indicates. In short, no Cadillac buyer is going to pass up a Cadillac showroom to mingle with the masses at a Hyundai dealership. Hyundai just could not get the right shopper to look at the car with the current brand.
After maybe a decade of trying, Hyundai finally succumbed to the process of building a new brand that could be distinct and one that could be positioned in the right space with the target customer. This is no surprise, as Honda (Acura), Toyota (Lexus) and Nissan (Infinity) have all done the same thing.
This is opposed to Volkswagen who never figured it out with the Phaeton.