“Europe is the toughest market in the world”, so says Dominique Boesch, managing director of Genesis Motors Europe.
It might seem like madness, then, for a nascent car brand to be launching here in the midst of a global economic crisis. Especially a Far Eastern brand trying to push its way into a premium segment utterly dominated by three long-established European marques.
But Boesch is bullish that Genesis - the luxury offshoot of South Korea’s Hyundai - can succeed where others have failed and carve itself a niche among the four rings, three-pointed stars and blue and white propellers.
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Five years after launching in its homeland the brand has expanded to the US, China, the Middle East and Australia and is now coming to three key European markets - the UK, Germany and Switzerland.
So why here and why now?
“The UK and Germany are the two biggest luxury markets in Europe,” Boesch told NationalWorld, “so we know we have very sophisticated customers where these type of cars and concepts can be appealing. Switzerland due the size of its market and the focus on luxury service also matches well with our ambition as a luxury brand.”
First up in its assault on the upper end of the market are the G80 and GV80, respectively a large saloon and SUV packed with high-end materials and the latest technology. Think BMW 5 Series or Audi A6 and X5 or Mercedes GLE. Later this year the G70 and GV70 will enter the same market space as the 3 Series and X3 and there’s a clear mission to target buyers looking for something removed from the mainstream.
Of course, we’ve been here before with a premium spin-off from a Far Eastern mainstream brand trying to establish itself in the toughest market on Earth.
Over the last 30 years Toyota’s sister brand Lexus has shown how it can be done, carving itself a small but loyal customer base, buying more than one million models between them.
Infiniti on the other hand tried and failed. The Nissan affiliate slunk out of Europe in 2020, 12 years after its launch, having sold fewer than 100,000 cars and failed to establish any sort of foothold in a region where the three German brands command two-thirds of the premium segment.
So, how does Genesis avoid Infiniti’s fate and follow in Lexus’ tyre tracks?
For Boesch, it’s all about doing things differently.
“There is a need in these three markets to be treated in a certain way. You have customers who simply want to be respected, want to enjoy a great product and a great service.”
To that end, Genesis won’t have traditional franchised dealers. Instead it has launched with three retail “studios” - in London, Zurich and Munich - and plans to extend across the UK as the brand establishes itself. These studios are staffed by “Genesis personal assistants” drawn from the world of luxury retail and hospitality rather than traditional car sales backgrounds and, says Boesch, they are there to make life easier for customers.
“Our Genesis personal assistants have a different understanding of customer care. Everything is there to make the customer feel comfortable and to save them time.”
That time saving element is key to winning over customers, says Boesch. For buyers who want a complete service with the minimum effort, Genesis offers a simple approach. There are no long options lists, no haggling on the fixed prices and every buyer gets the same comprehensive five-year care plan. That includes warranty, roadside assistance and maintenance, where an engineer will collect the car from the customer at a convenient time, leaving a courtesy car in its place while servicing or repairs are carried out.
It’s an approach aimed at buyers more interested in convenience and value than the traditional badge snobbery often associated with the premium segment.
“We are proposing something different here and I am confident that we will find our customers,” says Bosech. “We have our own path, our own view of doing business, maybe also our own view of what success is.”
Everyone at Genesis is cagey about how that “success” is defined. Someone somewhere must have a (presumably modest) sales target but nobody’s talking about it. Instead, Boesch insists that Genesis will measure its success on how it is received and perceived by the media and the consumer.
“Success for us will be to be recognised as a brand with a real commitment towards customers in terms of customer treatment and quality and establishing itself in the premium segment.”
And although not explicitly going after the German big three, the former head of Audi in Asia admits he would like his brand to be spoken about in the same breath as Mercedes, Audi and BMW. “In terms of establishing itself in that premium segment, to sometimes be associated in comparisons with some other brands - that will mean we are serious in what we are doing.”
However, he insists that the marque isn’t simply trying to steal customers from those well-established players.
“We are focusing on our own path and what we believe customers may be attracted to. Where it comes from, we don’t know. The origin of these customers may be different but it’s about what you are looking for and if you want a great product and peace of mind, we are there.”
For Boesch the internet has changed how brands are perceived and opened consumers’ eyes to alternative marques, no matter what they currently drive.
“There is an openness now regarding the purchase of brands,” he says. “You notice it in the car industry as in others. Ten years ago people were not very open in discovering new brands but in the meantime a lot of things have changed.
“Digitalisation [of marketing] and the internet has made customers aware of a lot of different brands. People get naturally curious and look for information. It’s easy to find that Genesis is extremely successful in Korea, getting more and more momentum in America so the brand has something.”
What it has that even Lexus didn’t when it launched, is a strong line-up of cars. The G80 and GV80 are already on sale, and the G70, GV70 and Europe-only G70 Shooting Brake will be along before the end of the year.
After that we’ll see an all-new electric car on a dedicated platform, as well as an all-electric version of the G80 and one other all-electric model.
Boesch is remaining tight-lipped on the details of that model, merely hinting that we’ll see it before the middle of 2022, but all the clues point to it being another electrified version of an existing model.
In the meantime, the brand is on a major offensive. A key sponsor at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, it has also just confirmed it will become the title sponsor of the Scottish Open from 2022.
Whether that and a line-up of eight models within its first year is enough to get the brand noticed by Europe’s discerning buyers remains to be seen. As Boesch himself admits, it’s not going to be easy.