Top Hyundai Dealers Are Battling for a Slice of Genesis Pie

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Late last month, Hyundai Motor America sent messages to dealers that announced the formation of an independent Genesis dealer network. The plan was to further separate the luxury brand from the rest of the company’s automotive fare by creating standalone dealerships.

While great for the brand’s image, the automaker’s strategy only calls for 100 initial locations. That’s a problem, because there are roughly 350 dealers that are currently eligible to sell both.

This hasn’t gone over well with Hyundai stores currently selling Genesis models right next to their more pedestrian inventory. Dealers have been offered compensation if they don’t make the cut, but plenty of them aren’t interested. They don’t want the money, they want the cars.

The Genesis compensation plan is intended to reimburse Hyundai dealers who invested in inventory, training, and equipment to service Genesis products and help launch the brand. It also includes a settlement with offers that vary depending on sales volume.

For Keyes Hyundai in Van Nuys, California, that equates to roughly $5 million dollars for not selling Genesis-branded vehicles. But its general manager, Brian Sobel, explained to Automotive News that it would rather be part of the new dealer network, especially since it’s located in an area that’s targeted for sales. As the second-strongest Genesis retailer in the western region, odds are good Keyes will get to keep selling them. However, it’s still one of 350 stores eligible for the 100 initial spots.

That’s also true for Gregory Hyundai-Genesis in Highland Park, Illinois. Owner Gregory Mauro knows his store could lose the luxury brand but intends to put up a fight to keep it. “For a lot of dealers, it makes sense for them to take the buyout,” Mauro said. “For other dealers, it makes sense for them to move forward and build the brand … Being in a major market in a luxury area, it makes sense for me to move forward.”

Hyundai estimates around 500 dealerships currently selling models like the G80 will be phased out of the Genesis network entirely. Those that do get to stay will be required to build or renovate their facilities by the end of 2020 to create a separate space for the luxury models. No showroom space can be shared and dealerships have to meet specific sizing requirements. Erwin Raphael, Genesis’ general manager, said the company should start announcing the franchise recipients within the next few months.

“We’ve got an internal process to consider many variables, but mostly, we’re focusing on experience and their commitment to delivering the luxury customer experience,” Raphael said of the dealer selection strategy.

Sobel thinks Keyes can prove itself to Genesis. While many dealers — including Sobel and Mauro — have called the automaker’s proposed compensation plan fair, many feel it makes more sense to stick with Genesis. Keyes already has a facility near its Hyundai store that it feels it can revamp for a few million and has promised to create a high-end experience for customers.

“I think the Genesis brand will be able to take off in an environment that will enable them to excel with the clientele they have,” Sobel said. “I’ve got a $240,000-a-year customer coming in to buy a Genesis, sitting next to a customer who is hoping to get into a $10,000 brand-new car. They’re just different buyers.”

That split is the primary reason Hyundai wants to separate the showrooms. Raphael told Automotive News last year that customer clinics showed most buyers disliked the idea of shopping for a $60,000 luxury vehicle when it was situated right next to more affordable Hyundais.

Plenty of luxury brands have pursued a similar strategy of late. Lincoln is trying to create ultra-premium versions of its stores in select markets while Cadillac wants to revamp its entire network via Project Pinnacle. However, General Motors’ strategy left a lot of dealerships noncompliant and created a real mess. Hyundai America COO Brian Smith said the company wants to avoid that, adding that it worked very closely with its dealer council before launching the Genesis plan.

“That’s probably where we focused our efforts up until now … to make sure that as our launch strategy comes together that we’re getting good feedback from dealers, and we are,” Smith said. “We had multiple conference calls with them as we refined the program.”

[Images: Genesis Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Dougjp Dougjp on Feb 06, 2018

    Limiting the number to 100 out of 350 tells me one of two things. (a) 250 of their existing "approved" Genesis sellers are pretty much useless and/or unqualified to meet the criteria. (b) They really don't want to sell a decent volume of cars or establish the brand at more than a walking pace, for reasons not to be explained in English. " as our launch strategy comes together " pretty much says it all to me, and tells me "(b)" above is the answer. If they don't even have a "launch strategy" figured out, and by the middle of last year, what's been going on?

    • See 3 previous
    • Ajla Ajla on Feb 06, 2018

      @bd2 "But anything from the 2019MY and on will have to be serviced from a Genesis dealership when it comes to warranty work." Geez. That's a kick to the shins. They should think about changing that rule. I guess the only nicer new vehicles people outside urban areas are supposed to own are King Ranch trucks.

  • Dilrod Dilrod on Feb 06, 2018

    Hi, I'm Different. May I please test drive an Accent? Seriously, if Genesis goes, what will Hyundai dealers offer as a "premium" model without sending a potential customer on their way? The Azera is gone. Limited trim lines are nice, but not THAT nice. If they are going to "upmarket" the Genesis, does that call for "downmarketing" the Hyundai (I know, nothing is more downmarket than a Hyundai ha ha)? Won't they need to increase volume in sales of the cheapies to make up for the loss of the premium model?

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    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Feb 06, 2018

      @Jack Denver Years ago I favored the V6 Sonata as my rental-du-jour. Almost got a speeding ticket going up I-15 from I-8 in San Diego, CA before I realized I was doing 105mph. Ahhh yes. Sooooo smooth and solid. Motivated me to buy a brand new 2011 Elantra for my granddaughter's HS grad. Between then and now, I don't know WTF happened to Hyundai. Several friends are having problems with them. I know! I'm the one who gives then rides to the local dealership.

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