By on June 15, 2010

In the midst of a nearly 3,000 word InsideLine treatise on the forthcoming Equus and Hyundai’s upmarket intentions in general, Hyundai’s USA boss John Krafcik reveals that the car pictured above very nearly became the Hyundai Genesis. No, really.

There was a lot of internal debate on design direction for Genesis. We used a European design house as an early consultant, and its proposals informed the core design elements of the first approved exterior model, which got as far as the tooling stage. In our industry, when you’ve built tools to stamp the exterior sheet metal, you’ve committed millions of dollars, and so you’re pretty much committed at that stage to bring that design to market. But in the end, we weren’t happy with the design. So we made the right decision (albeit a difficult and expensive one) to redo the exterior with a cleaner, more athletic and more enduring design, homegrown from our own design studio.

I got one word for you Krafcik: ballsy.

Let’s be real, the Genesis is hardly the best looking car available, but it’s a damn sight better than this mess. Showing a styling buck that was turned down is a highly unusual move, and one that shows how new Hyundai is to building aspirational cars. But it also shows that, unlike certain established premium brands, Hyundai takes its work more seriously than its mystique. That’s a fresh perspective that can only make the luxury segment more competitive.

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31 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Hyundai Genesisn’t Edition...”

  • avatar

    Good move, Hyundai. There aren’t many companies willing to abandon the sunk cost of expensive tooling late in the development cycle.

    Think of how the Aztek could have turned out if Pontiac had done that.

    • 0 avatar


      This looks 10 times better than most of the Chinese models I’ve seen. They should sell this in Shen Zhang. LOL

    • 0 avatar

      Think of how PONTIAC could have turned out if they’d done that. The Aztek was the start of a sad, sad decline of a once-great brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, not ONLY the Aztek…

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought it was Spelt AssTek..

      I think the Genesis looks fine for a first stab at a premium model. it doesnt over reach for the brand.

      but imagine how it will look like in the future, now that the new Sonata is out… i see promising things coming from Hyundai and KIA

    • 0 avatar

      Respectfully ott, Pontiac’s long decline began in 1971 with the badge engineered Nova clone Ventura II. When they went to Chevy powertrains in 1982, Pontiac became nothing more than a fancy Chevy and therefore had no reason to continue.

      That said, I know it was different in the “the great white north” where most all Pontiacs were nothing but fancy Chevies (Beaumont, Acadian, Astre, G5, G3, etc.).

    • 0 avatar

      True enough, but Pontiac was showing signs of independence near the end, (G6, G8, Solstice) but you are correct, they were fancy Chevs for most of the last 4 decades.

  • avatar

    Does he explain why the Genesis currently on sale doesn’t have a Hyundai badge on the grille, despite the fact that would help a lot of people identify it as a Hyundai, instead of the generic, anonymous, derivative luxury sedan that it looks like?

    The Sonata and upcoming Accent and Elantra far out-look both Genesis and the frumpy new Equus. There is still room for improvement. And if you don’t affix your badge to every grille of your car, it shows you don’t have pride in either the badge, or the car, or both. Get it on there.

    • 0 avatar

      Hyundai let the public vote on two diff. grills (one w/ the H logo and one w/o) and the public opted for the one w/o (which we currently see on the USDM Genesis).

      It was the right move – the “busy” Hyundai logo doesn’t look right on a luxury sedan (much the same way the Toyota or Nissan logo wouldn’t look right on the GS or M); besides, it’s standard practice in Korea and Japan for the luxury offerings from Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsu, etc. to have separate/distinct badges (Nissan Cima, Toyota Crown, etc.).

  • avatar

    I was walking through a parking lot yesterday and saw two cars together that I didn’t immediately recognize. The first was kinda stylish and looked like it might be the new BMW 5 series. The other was rather frumpy and I it thought could be my first Genesis sighting. I was rather surprised on closer inspection to find the former car was the Genesis and the ugly sister was a new Accord.

    Maybe it’s time Hyundai and Honda swapped their “H” badges.

    • 0 avatar

      What rock have you been living under where you either a) finally saw the current Accord in person or b) were unaware of what the current accord looks like?

      I find both cars to be pretty handsome in the flesh. With the accord, there is only so much you can do when you are in a 3 box FF configuration. The natural proportions of a 3 box FR configuration on the Genesis are easier to work with.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t be surprised if you confuse the Accord and Legacy from the side since both have just about the same take on BMW’s Hofmeister kink.

  • avatar

    This one looks like an Infiniti G with an extra-large grille.

  • avatar

    I wonder if that decision right there, to dump this hunk of garbage and go with the production Genesis, may be remembered as the true turning point for Hyundai? Where they moved from being a pretender to an actual contender in the design of stylish automobiles.

    I realize that that decision might not have had much impact on the new Sonata, or the upcoming Elantra and Accent, but that they had the guts to say “This isn’t right, this isn’t what we want our car company to be, we don’t want to put out something that looks like that” even after a huge sunk cost, says to me that at least someone there is keeping their eyes up and on the future.

    You can say the Genesis sedan is derivative (and it is), or bland, or generic. But there’s no question that it’s relatively handsome, and a huge step up from this monstrosity.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “cleaner, more athletic and more enduring design, homegrown from our own design studio.”

    So we gave them some pictures of recent Benzes, and told them to make it look like that.

    • 0 avatar

      Uhh, the Genesis looks nothing like Mercedes (has much more of a BMW-flavor) aside from having a center divider on its vertically-slatted grill.

      The LS430 otoh…

  • avatar

    Seems like John took a page from Lutz’s recently-arrived-at-GM playbook…

    Good time to execute the play too … somehow this car looks like an even-uglier squashed Maybach with a bloated Infiniti grille…

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Some other interesting bits:

    “But here’s the best part. We’ll come and pick up the Equus at your home or business and leave behind a service loan car for you to drive while we perform the work. And when we’re done, we’ll deliver your Equus back to you. That’s pretty special, and unique in our industry. We call it Service Valet. With Equus, it’s not about putting you at the front of the service line, it’s about eliminating the line entirely and demonstrating extraordinary respect for your time. For many smart and affluent buyers, time is the ultimate luxury.”

    Actually remarkably true and perceptive: Someone paying $60K on a car really does expect a lot. The idea of an S-class competitor with all the bells and whistles but better customer service can be really appealing to those who want a luxo-barge but aren’t a brand-snob.

    I think the Equus probably will be #4 in that market quite easily (behind the badge-snob-appealed S-Class, 7-series, and LS). He is probably right, there are a lot of buyers who’d love to never ever EVER have to set foot in a dealership again once they drive it off the lot.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that plan is mainly to keep Equus owners from seeing the great unwashed at the dealerships. Not only those shopping the Accent, but those selling them too.

      Written as a Genesis driver and likely Equus driver at the end of my current lease (Feb. 2011).

  • avatar

    The abandoned “styling buck” looks the same aft of the firewall/A-pillar as the production car. Only the front clip (hood/fender/grille) appears to have been updated.

  • avatar

    Good move Hyundai. That car pictured at the top looks about as luxurious as a Toyota Corolla. Definitely not the image you want to project for your first entry into the luxury car market. Of course, a better move would have been to realize the mistake before wasting those millions on tooling that was never used.

  • avatar

    I’d rather the makeshift Mercedes than that thing.

  • avatar

    Smart move by Hyundai. The front end of this to me looks like a Chinese knock off of a previous gen S-class mixed with a Quattroporte. Uggo.

    As for the “service valet” Lexus does that too, or at least the dealer here does it. You don’t have to drop 60 grand either, they will come to your house and pick up your ES or RX for service, and leave a Camry or Avalon loaner.

  • avatar

    I see a XG350 in the background. I must be the only one who liked the styling of that one.
    Also, Hyundai’s prices are slowly creeping upwards toward those of the competition. They will no longer be able to market their price advantage. Maybe that was the goal????

  • avatar

    I wasn’t aware it was ballsy to do one’s job. Or to know passably-handsome from bloated Accent.

    Really, I just thought they were common sense.

  • avatar

    I think Ed meant that it was ballsy on the part of John Krafcik because he made the decision to change the design after so much money had already been spent on the design pictured in the article. He was taking a risk that the current design would be accepted and profitable. I don’t care for the design pictured in the article.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Um, why wasn’t this problem caught at the 3-D CAD rendering stage, or at least at the clay model stage? Kudos to Hyundai for making the right choice at the end, but why did it take them so long? And, which European design studio did the original? Maybe a double agent???

  • avatar

    That styling buck, had it reached mass production, would’ve signaled Hyundai wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

    Good thing John Krafcik sent it back. The current Genesis grille isn’t a classic either but a simple mid-cycle facelift can fix that aspect of an otherwise attractive car.

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