What is it?
Some thirty-one years after Lexus famously tried to smash its way into it with a little-known and much-dismantled Japanese limousine called the LS 400, the European luxury car market must still seem like that toughest of tough nuts, just lying there uncracked on the table, for so many aspiring global car manufacturers that remain on the outside looking in.
Even after so long, Toyota’s aforementioned premium brand seems still to be engaged in the gradual process of establishing itself on our continent. After a couple of expensive attempts, Renault-Nissan’s latecomer equivalen, Infiniti, gave up trying. Cadillac and Chrysler both tried too, you may dimly remember. Neither stuck.
Back in the present, the view from the inside isn’t much rosier. The Stellantis group’s French luxury specialist DS is floundering to make headway, and yet it struggles on. Even established European brands with bigger names, such as Alfa Romeo and Jaguar, have to be content to tread water at the moment. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are just dominating the scene like never before, leaving so little room for others to find a chink of light in which to grow - athough one or two (Tesla, Volvo) are just about managing to do so.
Why, then, would the Hyundai Motor Group choose now to launch its own luxury brand, Genesis, in Europe? Why bother at all? The answer may partly be because Genesis is aiming to do luxury motoring differently than its competitors; and differently, also, from how Infiniti tried to do it not so long ago (some of the key people who were involved with Infiniti’s bid are now employed at Genesis Europe, funnily enough).
But there’s another reason; there would have to be. The European launch of Genesis is driven, at the highest levels of the Hyundai Motor Group’s management, by a desire for recognition.
Hyundai chairman Euisun Chung is Genesis's greatest advocate within his company, or so group insiders whisper - and he wants respect; not so much personally but for the firm he represents. He wants to operate in a world in which he can engage with his opposite-number executives from Toyota and the Teutonically controlled BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen groups as an equal. A world where Genesis has demonstrated that the conglomerate he controls can produce truly world-class, technologically sophisticated, desirable and commercially successful luxury vehicles, and his top-table seat in industry power-brokering is as secure as anyone’s. Luxury cars, as the big boss sees it, may be the final piece of the Hyundai Motor Group’s development puzzle.
The other key thing to know about Genesis is that it isn’t starting from scratch in its mission to succeed in Europe where so many have failed. Having been founded as a brand in 2015 in South Korea, it was worth 130,000 global registrations to the Hyundai Motor Group in 2020 - and that was before being rolled out in China.
It arrives on our continent with an initial range of two models - the Audi A6-sized G80 saloon tested here and the Q7-sized, seven-seat GV80 SUV - and its line-up is due to swell to more than five before the middle of 2022. Several electric options will be among them.