JORDON STATION, Ont. — Thirty years ago, Toyota launched the Lexus brand. The attempt to go head-to-head with the trio of established German luxury brands was bold to say the least. Unrelenting attention to quality and customer satisfaction has proven the skeptics wrong. Lexus has become an established and highly-respected name.
Other Japanese companies (Honda/Acura and Nissan/Infiniti) have tried the same approach, but with far less success.
Now Genesis joins the fray. Canada’s newest luxury brand came on the scene just over two years ago. Hyundai’s audacious move into the luxury market was initially met with derision. After a raft of awards and recognition, that has morphed into acceptance and the initial stages of respect.
With the German and Japanese marques in the rear-view mirror, Genesis has been named the number-one brand in initial quality for two year’s running by J D Power. Consumer Reports rates it the number-one luxury brand. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded Genesis vehicles its Top Safety Pick+ award. The Genesis G70 was named the North American Car of the Year with similar accolades from numerous enthusiast magazines.
Genesis has taken a unique approach on several fronts. It has no dealerships. The consumer buys from the company, online in most cases. Genesis brings the vehicle to the prospective customer for consideration. Purchase paperwork is completed at the customer’s home or place of business. When it comes time for service, a loaner is brought to the customer and retrieved when his or her Genesis is returned. Scheduled maintenance is complimentary for five years or 100,000 km.
The next chapter is to build distributorships, buildings where potential clients can see and drive Genesis vehicles. They could be thought of as dealerships, except you do not buy vehicles from a dealer, you buy or lease them directly from Genesis. There are 22 of these sites in Canada currently, with a goal of 30 from Halifax to Victoria by the end of 2020.
Another interesting aspect of the Genesis approach is the unreserved pride that it’s a Korean product, the flagship of the Republic of Korea. At home, Genesis is a matter of national pride. The G90 is used by country’s president and industry leaders. More than 12,000 have been sold in South Korea for the first six months of the year, a 113 per cent increase over the previous year.
That pride extends to its global approach. Richard Trevisan, brand director of Genesis Motors Canada, said the core values of the company include not only a new way to sell cars, but emphasis on being distinctly Korean. “That means being innovative and humble with attention to human-centered details.”
The level of craftmanship, quality of materials and attention to detail is truly world class; cars costing two and three times as much do no better.
Luxury car sales have been dropping like a stone. The strength in that segment lies in SUVs. For the first six months of 2019, sales of Mercedes cars are down 23 per cent, BMW and Audi are both down 21 per cent, Infiniti 27 per cent and Jaguar 60 per cent. Genesis sales are up 34 per cent.
Genesis does not yet have a crossover or SUV in the fray. That will be addressed next year.
Genesis cars are based on unique rear-drive platforms. Its upcoming SUVs will spring from those same genes.
Which brings me to the 2020 Genesis G90. We were the first in the world to get behind the wheel of the company’s flagship. The Americans get to see it next spring.
What we saw and drove extensively, is a take-no-prisoners luxury car. The big, silent and powerful G90 comes complete at $89,750 all-in. That includes all delivery and destination fees, five years of at-home and Genesis connected service (more on that in a minute). You can spend hours and tens of thousands of dollars on the option list of the competitors. There are no options on the G90. The only choice is colour. The savings of this marketing approach are significant. The G90 costs $20,000-$30,000 less than the top models from the competition — before those extensive and expensive options.
Its research shows that G90 customers are very pragmatic — about one third have retired and are looking for the best buy for their buck. Genesis owners say the major considerations in their purchase decision were value (29 per cent), safety features (29 per cent), quality (24 per cent), interior comfort, (22 per cent), total cost of ownership (17 per cent) and technical innovation (17 per cent).
The argument can, and will be made, that Genesis lacks the credibility and reputation of the established makes. The segment is loyalty driven, more than 50 per cent return to same brand. Genesis knows it is a huge challenge to overcome that. There is no argument, beyond the question of how much consumers are willing to pay for that “image.”
What they will not get is more or a better car.
The G90 is astonishingly equipped and complete. Quality is a proven by the long list of awards. The design is conservative and slightly updated for the 2020 model year. The level of craftmanship, quality of materials and attention to detail is truly world class; cars costing two and three times as much do no better.
The big sedan has been considered an oasis on wheels. It offers plenty of room for five, with those in the outside rear seats especially well cared for. The setup process provides Smart Posture Care. The driver inputs height, weight, inseam length etc. and the system recommends and sets the most ergonomic seating position based on an analysis of that physical profile data. Seat angle and height, steering wheel rake and reach, side mirror position and Heads-Up Display are adjusted accordingly. It put me in a position I would not have chosen, but I emerged hours later with no pains or complaints.
Sensors automatically adjust seat and steering wheel heat according to ambient conditions. Motors pull the doors closed. The 17-speaker Lexicon audio system allows you to set the sound as if sitting on the stage with the orchestra or in the front row. An advanced algorithm compensates for losses incurred by the process of compressing MP3, AAC and other formats.
The standard Genesis Connected Services allows remote access to various functions through a smartphone app. From your phone, you can locate and/or start the car, pre-set the HVAC system, pre-heat the steering wheel and seat and get diagnostic reports.
You get the idea — this is a very complete and luxurious automobile.
The extremely rigid platform aids in an almost complete lack of road, wind or mechanical noise at any speed. Buried in the lengthy list of noise suppression details is the fact the 19-inch alloy wheels have been especially formed on a hollow core to absorb sound.
The 420-horsepower V8 is silent and smooth with plenty of power on tap. The sophisticated, Canadian-designed (Magna) all-wheel-drive system constantly shuffles power front-to-rear and side-to-side as required and the adaptive suspension copes well with a variety of surfaces and driving styles. The G90 is big; it is heavy and will never be mistaken as a sports car. That role is filled by the G70. But there are a number of drive modes and shift paddles to play with should you so desire.
You may not recognize the brand — yet. But you will and have an opportunity to try one out in a most unobtrusive manner.
Model: 2020 Genesis G90
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, 420 horsepower, 383 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 13.6 / 9.5
Length: 5,205 mm
Width: 1,915 mm
Wheelbase: 3,160 mm
Weight: 2,250 kg.
Price: $89,750 base, $89,750 as tested, including freight
Options on test vehicle: none