Currently reading: Genesis UK boss on why it can avoid Infiniti's mistakes
Andrew Pilkington tells us how Genesis differentiates itself and what it's been like after a year in the role

Andrew Pilkington, director and regional operations manager at Genesis Motor UK, hasn't had the easiest of starts at the upmarket arm of Hyundai and Kia, launching an entirely new brand in the midst of a pandemic. But he's convinced that Genesis is on the right path and will buck the trend of other similar car brands like Infiniti.

Nissan’s Infiniti was a luxury brand that tried and failed. How is Genesis different?

Timing is important. Infiniti launched a number of years ago and its business model was the same as everybody else. My understanding is that they wanted to grow very quickly and, as a consequence, a lot of volume was put into the marketplace, but the demand wasn’t there.

We are doing things very differently. We have the financial support behind us. I think we’re in a different position to win as an organisation [compared with Nissan] in terms of the product portfolio as well.

Our new chief executive wants to make Genesis a success around the world. We’re going to do that by having products that work for the marketplace. We have three EVs coming to market. And secondly, we have the Genesis difference (see below). It’s about being totally customer-centric.

We’re building the brand in a very consolidated way by creating key points of differentiation. We have the statistics to show it’s working so far, and we believe it’s only a matter of time. The other aspect is the direct-to-consumer approach, which is really important. It’s relevant today and increasingly relevant for tomorrow.

It’s day one of Genesis - what do you do?

As a new entrant to the market with a non-traditional business model, the first task was trying to understand the direction of Genesis. Genesis is in all the continents - UK and Europe were the last. In other markets, it is a traditional dealer model. But the concept here was that we would adopt the agency model or a hybrid of that. But then we decided it wasn’t appropriate; it was not progressive enough; there was a better option. And that is what we implemented. We take responsibility for a customer from ‘cradle to grave’.

Genesis says it differentiates itself with its customer experience. How?

We have created the Genesis difference. Every customer gets a Genesis personal assistant, who is not a salesperson. They don’t get commission. That person is responsible for helping the customer through the journey from arranging test drives and assisting with the online ordering process to delivering the car to you and helping if there is an issue with the car during ownership.

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The trust is built up. These people typically come from a background of hospitality and therefore their natural approach is to want to help the customer.

It’s very important to us that we have a transparent process for the customer. We have fixed pricing and the reason for that is because all the evidence is that customers want to trust their brand. The behaviour of the industry over the years is to encourage people to go on the internet to see the best price and negotiate because they've been educated to do so. At Genesis, everybody gets the same price.

Our five-year care plan includes warranty, free servicing including pick-up and delivery and a Genesis courtesy car, free roadside assistance and free over-the-air updates.

The final piece of the jigsaw is the studios. If people want to go and talk to someone and physically see cars, the studios have brand experts. We have one studio at Westfield in Shepherds Bush, London, and another one will open in September.

Who is the typical Genesis buyer so far?

It’s male and predominantly from 39 years upwards. It is a private purchase and it is someone looking for real value for money and reliability in the car. We have to talk about the head and the heart. People typically buy with emotion and then rationalise the purchase. I think people are coming to us as a brand rationally, and then when they get in the car, they see the luxury interior. The pricing is significantly lower than a similarly specified rival. People say ‘wow’. We’re seeing conquest on Genesis GV80 sales from owners of cars such as the Range Rover and BMW X5.

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With a year of Genesis behind you, how has it gone?

It’s gone incredibly quickly. Lockdown has been a blessing in one sense as it’s allowed us to work night and day with little distraction. But conversely, we haven’t been able to communicate as effectively as we might have done if we were in an office.

We’ve recruited an excellent team of industry experts that really want to be on the journey. We have a couple of expressions at Genesis: firstly, the devil is in the detail. The other one is it’s not for the faint-hearted. If your natural reaction is to want to be an expert in everything, you can’t be. You need to draw on the expertise of other people and that’s why the challenge is getting the right people on board to create that culture.

What’s next for Genesis?

We have three new electric models. Firstly, we’re launching the Genesis GV60, which is on the same platform as the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5. We have a lot of pre-orders and that’s without opportunities in the corporate sector. We’re also launching the Electrified G80, which is important as a halo product for electric cars. And then, later this year, the Electrified GV70 comes.

We want to build brand awareness. We will have six studios in the major cities. We have predominantly been a retail brand as we’ve only had diesel or petrol powertrains but now we will have three EVs to be able to operate in the business-to-business sector.

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The final thing is developing this customer-centric culture in the team. We’ve grown from 13 people to over 60 and we want to be the employer of choice so that people are attracted to come and work with us. It’s so difficult to find the right talent in the marketplace.

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