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The Genesis Brand Should've Led With an SUV

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2017

As many of you know, Hyundai is coming out with a new luxury brand called "Genesis." It's going to be an upscale brand, with its own upscale cars, and it's just getting off the ground with three models: The full-size G90 sedan, the slightly smaller G80, and the sporty new G70. By all accounts, these vehicles are excellent luxury automobiles, fully deserving of comparisons to other established luxury brands. But I think there's a problem: Genesis should've led with an SUV.

Before I explain myself, I should note that Genesis's roll-out coincides with the prescribed way of releasing a new luxury brand. When Infiniti came out in the early 1990s, it led off with a full-size sedan -- the Q45. Acura released the Legend before anything else. And, most famously, Lexus opened its doors to the world with the arrival of the LS 400 in 1990 -- the car that redefined the full-size sedan segment and made Lexus famous. So Hyundai must've figured they'd follow this path when rolling out Genesis.

And that's all well and good, with one issue: those brands all showed up 25 years ago. And in the last 25 years, buyer tastes have changed -- specifically in one way: everyone wants SUVs now.

This is not an overstatement. Two years ago, I was at an automaker event -- coincidentally, the press launch for the new Hyundai Elantra, which is an excellent car -- and I was told by none other than Hyundai's North American president that, while overall vehicle sales were up the prior year (I think it was 2015), car sales were actually down. The only reason industry sales were up was because of SUV and truck sales, which were gaining dramatically on car sales. Put into numbers, here's an amazing statistic for you: In 2013, trucks and SUVs represented just half ("just" half -- hah!) of all vehicle sales in the United States. Three years later, in 2016, they represented 63 percent. If that trend continues, well, in about a decade, there won't be anyone left buying cars.

And it isn't just that. Not only are trucks and SUVs constantly becoming more popular, but SUVs are more popular with younger buyers -- the kind of car shoppers everyone wants to woo. Automotive News reports that Millennial car shoppers are largely buying SUVs, crossovers and compacts, preferring those cars to traditional sedans and coupes.

And now we go back to Genesis. You're rolling out a new luxury brand, in a world where young people are gravitating towards SUVs and crossovers, in a world where 63 percent of sales are SUVs and trucks, and you debut a sedan, and then another sedan and then a third sedan? It seems a bit counterintuitive, when you consider where the market is heading -- and where buyer tastes seem to be concentrating.

So if I were Genesis, I would've rolled out an SUV. Their response to this will surely be that "one is on the way," or "we have exciting new future product coming," but I wouldn't have let it get to that point. If I were debuting a new luxury brand, I would've read buyer tastes and I would've led with SUVs, not cars. Because the LS 400 of the 2010s will have 4-wheel drive, a cargo area and at least eight inches of ground clearance.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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The Genesis Brand Should've Led With an SUV - Autotrader