Australia's newest luxury brand is taking shape.
Hyundai has appointed former Toyota and Lexus executive Peter Evans as general manager, Genesis, ahead of the official launch of the brand here next March.
The company has drastically cut the number of dealers authorised to sell the Genesis brand — from 165 to just 30.
Hyundai boss Scott Grant says the streamlining took into account which dealers had been most successful in selling the Genesis large car, as well as the quality of their existing showrooms and sales processes.
"We have chosen dealers that have the opportunity to sell the car in sufficient volume to make it work and have the capability in their people and their processes to be able to look after a luxury customer in the right way," he says.
About a third of the franchisees chosen already operate a dealership for a luxury brand. Those dealers met for the first time as a group last week.
Unlike Toyota and Nissan, which operate their respective luxury arms Lexus and Infiniti as standalone operations, Hyundai will sell Genesis in existing Hyundai dealerships, in the same way Mini is integrated into BMW dealerships.
First to launch will be an update of the current Genesis sedan, to be renamed the G80. It will be followed in about 12 months by a smaller sedan designed to rival the BMW 3 Series. An SUV is likely to follow later as the range expands to half a dozen vehicles.
Grant, a former boss of Lexus Australia, is under no illusions as to the size of Hyundai's task but says the potential for profit is strong.
There's a new wave of people coming through that are open to different options and alternatives.
"We think that commercially it's a direction that makes sense and we've proved that we can build a high-quality vehicle," he says.
He cites establishing the new name and getting customers to consider the brand as the main challenges. He accepts some luxury buyers will never consider a Genesis.
"We fully recognise there are some people who won't think the Hyundai brand or the Genesis brand is appropriate for them and that's OK," he says.
"But we also think there's a new wave of people coming through that are open to different options and alternatives and if our product is good enough and our service delivery and customer experience is good enough, there are people who will consider it."
He says Lexus and Infiniti face the same challenges. "It's essential but not enough to build great products. You've got to have the X-factor that builds over time and there's no question that Mercedes-Benz and BMW in particular — and more recently Audi — have done a really good job of building a brand halo," he says.
Would you consider a Genesis over other prestige brands? Let us know what you think in the comments below.