Luxury from Asia has a hard time in Europe. Even more so in the car market: the Japanese carmakers Toyota and Nissan afford their noble divisions Lexus and Infiniti. But while both brands are blazing along in the U.S., they tend to crawl along in our country: Lexus sold 689 cars in this country last year and stands at just 445 at the end of September; Infiniti can't even manage a triple-digit result so far this year after selling 286 vehicles in 2017. Audi, BMW and Mercedes have the so called premium market firmly in their grip.
Launched three years ago
What apparently doesn't bother anyone at Hyundai: At the South Korean carmaker "nothing rattles" (ex-VW boss Martin Winterkorn) – on the contrary, Hyundai has long been putting on the pressure with electric and hydrogen models. And launched its luxury brand Genesis three years ago. At the end of 2019 it will open its first showroom in Europe in Zurich; the lease has already been signed. After that Great Britain and Germany will follow, later the rest of the continent.
All freedoms available
Genesis, "creation" – the name was already emblazoned on the rear of a luxury sedan and a coupe. Since 2016, the label is now expanded to a complete brand with its own organization. CEO Manfred Fitzgerald (54) started with five employees, now 120 people work there. Fitzgerald says he has all the freedom he needs to develop the brand. Difficult, so completely without tradition and image. "It's time for luxury from Korea," says Fitzgerald. "We don't carry around the burden of the past like the competition, we can redefine ourselves."Daring, innovative spirit and the culture of Korea – that's what Fitzgerald wants to build the brand image on. Plus modesty and the Asian art of keeping everything in harmony.
Key figures from Europe
The key figures in the game come from Europe: Fitzgerald grew up in Cologne, Germany. The design is the responsibility of the Belgian Luc Donckerwolke (53), who has already brought Audi, Skoda, Seat and Bentley in shape. Sasha Selipanov (35) – trademark black beard and "Metallica" shirt – is responsible for the implementation, drawing the Bugatti Chiron. All together unite their Lamborghini past. Above all, Fitzgerald and Donckerwolke quickly accustomed the brand to the embarrassing spoiler orgies of the past by 2011 and repositioned it.
Enough experience to restyle Genesis. The brand currently offers three sedans: The G70 has been designed with the BMW 3 Series in mind, the G80 looks a bit old-fashioned, and the top model, the G90, looks like a Mercedes S-Class. By 2020, two more SUVs will be added, which the GV80 Concept with fuel cell already gave a glimpse of. Genesis has access to the parent company's technology toolkit. Is to become at the same time also technological spearhead. "The next models will also bear my signature," says Donckerwolke, who at least managed to streamline the interior of the G70 when he started in 2016.
With Selipanov, he drew the Essentia Concept, a gullwing two-seater with electric drive and a range of up to 500 kilometers, for the New York Auto Show in the spring. Optically it breaks with triangular front. Sharply cut tail with the Asia-Barock of current models. Fitzgerald may not be coming out with it quite yet, but this could well be a preview of a sixth model.
South Korean flair
Lexus and Infiniti are not making much headway – what makes Fitzgerald so confident for Genesis? The competition has already invested a lot in the distribution network and is fixated on it, he says. "We will not work with dealers, on the other hand, but in direct sales. This allows us to control the entire chain and brand presence and not depend on the performance of one dealer," he says. Sales, aftersales, service – all from a single source and with South Korean flair: "There, the approach to service is at eye level – that's how we want to appear to our customers.
Perhaps the Asian competition did not quite understand the European requirements, Fitzgerald suspects. That, he said, is what he wants to do better with his team from Europe.