The Hyundai Genesis Sucker-Punch to the Luxury Car Market

Somehow, very recently, Hyundai’s Genesis brand just ‘got it’. I’m not saying it was gradual, either. With the new G80 and GV80, the automaker did it in one generation. Have you seen the previous G80? The new one makes the previous car look like one of those lasagna-shaped fish that mops it’s food off of the ocean floor with its tongue.

Older:

New Hotness:

There are definitely several specific reasons as to why this happened. They’ve been picking executives out from German auto manufacturers, but it takes more than the right people to get this sort of transformation off the ground. They’re gambling in the right places, and playing good hands. Just Look at the G80 interiors between generations:

They went from Camry to E Class in one generation. Frankly, it makes Cadillac look even worse. What are they doing?

Let’s not beat a dead horse.

It’s easy to make the “Korean cars = bad!” cliche that’s persisted for far too long. The fact is that Hyundai (and Kia) have been cranking out really good cars for, well, more than 15 years now. And the newest Genesis is the pinnacle of this journey. It’s a damn-fine looking machine that should have luxury sedan buyers seriously considering the G80 over German and Japanese alternatives. We can only hope it drives as well as it looks, but the recent crop of Genesis vehicles have all driven quite well.

Is it perfect, design-wise? No, of course not. The grille is massive. That lower chrome sill is questionable. And there are a few Lincoln Continental/Prior-Gen MB S-Class vibes still in place. But it is a good looking car, inside and out. And it should be priced to sucker punch its German and Japanese rivals. And yes, this may now be the time when you can truly consider them rivals.

We’ve come a long way

Anybody remember the movie, “My Fellow Americans?” It was released a year before I was born. Here’s Google’s little spiel about it in case you forget:

I don’t remember it being a particularly good movie, but it had its funny moments. Walmart apparently rates it 4.7/5. Take that as you will. There’s a scene in the movie where the two protagonists (both former presidents) have to rent a car. This clip is completely absent from the internet, unfortunately.

“Hyundai or Lexus?” the woman at the front desk asks the two former chief executives. They look at her as if she’s making a joke. They do eventually have to take the 1988 Hyundai Excel after driving the Lexus the wrong way out of the rental lot and popping all of its tires. This is seen as another addition to their existing malaise.

1989 Hyundai Excel GL 3-dr, front left.jpg

Not a Great Start

Growing up my Dad would tell me about his friends who chose to purchase Korean cars, “My buddy was driving down the road one day and the window got sucked right out of the car! Blew down the road and shattered!”

Whenever The Bangles song Manic Monday would come on the radio, he would turn up the volume and replace “just another manic Monday” with, “just another crappy Hyundai”, other classic additions included, “Honey, this car’s making a noise!”

Then, this very morning, after waking up too early in the morning for a class via ZOOM, I showed him a picture of the new G80. “Wow, that’s cool. Looks like a Mercedes.” I pressed him, reminding him the car didn’t have a V8. It was a Hyundai, Dad! Remember the song?

“Yeah but a 375 horsepower V6. That’s plenty of power for that thing. Interior looks nice, too.”

He’s right. The sun has set on Manic Monday.

15 Comments

  1. It’s a shame, because the car would be gorgeous if not for that grille. The profile and 3/4 rear view are fantastic. To bad they didn’t continue the parallel-bar theme (from the taillights, side markers, and headlights) into the grille. It’s all for not if you fail to stick the landing.

  2. I understand that the Genesis is a very handsome and of good quality. Certainly it’s probably more reliable than most BMW’s (full disclosure – I own a 2019 5 Series). However, for this type of car purchase status is a considerable factor. Grumble if you will but that’s undeniable.
    Buyers will have to be prepared for the following type of inquiry: “ Gee, nice car. What made you choose a Hyundai over a Mercedes, or BMW (Audi or Jaguar)?

    What’s your answer? “Just as good for less money”?

    That’s not automatically a virtue from a status perspective

  3. I have no doubt this Genesis can compete with most of the finer cars out there, and I like the independent design language a lot (even though I have always been a fan of the East Asian serious baroque style). The steering wheel looks a little droopy and two tones of blue inside is one too many for me, but it, sort of, works anyway.

    Korean products and cultural exports are gaining more and more popularity. I don’t know if any of you guys have seen this season’s smash hit “Crash Landing on You”, but it’s full of Jaguar/Land Rover product placements (and UAZes):


    I’d prefer to see more local fare…

  4. I understand that the Genesis is a very handsome and of good quality. Certainly it’s probably more reliable than most BMW’s (full disclosure – I own a 2019 5 Series). However, for this type of car purchase status is a considerable factor. Grumble if you will but that’s undeniable.
    Buyers will have to be prepared for the following type of inquiry: “ Gee, nice car. What made you choose a Hyundai over a Mercedes, or BMW (Audi or Jaguar)?

    What’s your answer? “Just as good for less money”?

    That’s not automatically a virtue from a status perspective

    1. Fair point, and observing the answer would be really interesting. “It’s as good [as the classic choices], but more interesting” would be a great answer, or the classic passive-aggressive “everybody can buy a Porsche, but I’d get a Noble”-among-enthusiasts-approach?

      It’s a shame that the lack of status will hurt its used value, but as long as Hyundai finds its niche, pursues it, and makes good, solid cars in the process, they might succeed. They also need fresh, cheap, contrast competition. Like Korean cars were to Japanese, Chinese compacts might be to Koreans. This will reflect on their top models, too, as with Lexus 25 years ago.

    2. I would argue that a preoccupation with perceived status isn’t a virtue at all. But, your point is admittedly valid, considering there are people who actually think such things matter. The question really comes down to whether you’re interested in the car, or in how people perceive your ownership of it.

      There’s a gentleman about my age who moved in our neighborhood a couple of years ago. He got a brand-new black 5 Series about the same time I bought my black ’87 535i, and we jokingly compared and contrasted the two cars when we crossed paths at a common friend’s house. He and I live in the same neighborhood, have kids in the same schools, take comparable vacations, and appear to be in similar financial situations. Yet he leased a new BMW while I bought an old one with couch cushion loot. Is there any difference in our status, or just a difference in how we want to be perceived?

      Personally, I’m happy not to be a slave to such irrelevant social posturing. To the Genesis-vs-BMW-purchase question, I could confidently respond, “because I liked it more.” If it’s my choice for my car, why would I care what someone else thinks?

    3. Fair point, and observing the answer would be really interesting. “It’s as good [as the classic choices], but more interesting” would be a great answer, or the classic passive-aggressive “everybody can buy a Porsche, but I’d get a Noble”-among-enthusiasts-approach?

      It’s a shame that the lack of status will hurt its used value, but as long as Hyundai finds its niche, pursues it, and makes good, solid cars in the process, they might succeed. They also need fresh, cheap, contrast competition. Like Korean cars were to Japanese, Chinese compacts might be to Koreans. This will reflect on their top models, too, as with Lexus 25 years ago.

      1. Good point regarding the need for competition, given that many people are reluctant to put the Genesis on the same shelf as the Germans.

  5. Never mind that grille, what’s with the current trend of making cars that look like fastback hatchbacks but is actually another less useful saloon?

    1. It’s just a stage in the natural evolution into an estate, the ultimate form of car perfection.

      Seriously, I think it’s backlash against “all things sedan”, and a nod to the design of crossovers. Or, maybe it’s just an aero tactic to improve fuel mileage. Regardless, I think a striking three-box design would make a refreshing splash in the market today.

          1. Haha, without doubt, but it’s perhaps just another symptom of BLs ability to take an incredibly forward thinking design and hobble it with cost cutting, compromise and conservatism. The original sketches for the Allegro were beautiful and intended to be a hatchback I believe. BL/BMC had a long history of this – the Morris Minor was supposed to have a flat four engine.

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