The 2014 Genesis Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images

Hyundai Launches Genesis Luxury Brand

The world's fifth-largest automaker takes aim at the growing high-end market with a line of as many as six vehicles within the next five years.

SEOUL — Hyundai Motor launched its premium brand on Wednesday as it looks to expand its presence in the fast-growing luxury auto market. 

Hyundai will offer six models as part of the Genesis brand by 2020, including the existing luxury sedan launched in 2013 and another large sedan to be unveiled next month. The company has boosted its high-end auto line ups including Genesis and Equus in recent years in a bid to shed its image as a cheaper alternative to bigger rivals like Toyota.

The Genesis models — first introduced in 2008 — have won a series of awards for design and are said to be more refined than the firm’s past vehicles. The existing sedan to be included in the luxury portfolio is priced at up to $54,000.

“High-end cars account for only 10% of the global market but ... the sector is leading the industry in terms of technology and design,” Hyundai vice chairman Chung Eui-Sun said at a press conference. “I am confident that the launch of the new brand will play a major role in our future growth.”

Global shipments of luxury cars grew 9.7% in 2014, outpacing the overall market growth of 4.2%, according to market research firm IHS. 

The brand’s new vehicles, including a luxury SUV and sports coupe, will not carry the Hyundai label but simply the Genesis logo, in the same way that Toyota’s Lexus brand only carries its own logo.

Hyundai has meanwhile hired Luc Donckerwolke as head of its global design. Donckerwolke is a famed designer who previously worked for top automakers such as Bentley and Lamborghini.

The latest announcement came as South Korea’s top carmaker struggled with eroding profit stemming from a strong won that has blunted its price competitiveness overseas. The firm last month reported a 25% drop in its third-quarter net profit — a seventh consecutive drop in quarterly profit — warning of “many challenges” ahead with slowing demand in Chinese market and uncertainties about the U.S. economic outlook.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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