Hyundai to Speed U.S. Growth With Restyled Genesis Luxury Sedan

Hyundai Motor Co., after lackluster U.S. growth in 2013, is bringing out a restyled Genesis luxury sedan to help reignite sales and regain market share.

The 2015 Genesis sports a heftier look, with a broad front grille and sculpted body panels, and is the first Hyundai sedan with optional all-wheel-drive, the company said yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Six-cylinder and V-8 engines will produce as much or more horsepower than competing sedans from Volkswagen AG’s Audi, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and General Motors Co.’s Cadillac, and the Genesis chassis has been stiffened to aid driving dynamics and feel.

“The first Genesis did well as a conquest vehicle, pulling sales away from established luxury makers,” said Joseph Phillippi, principal of consulting firm AutoTrends Inc. in Andover, New Jersey. “Adding all-wheel-drive improves appeal in the Midwest and Northeast where that’s a selling point because of bad weather. You broaden the base by a big margin.”

Hyundai’s U.S. sales rose 2.5 percent in 2013 as total auto industry sales went up 7.6 percent. The company last month named a new U.S. Chief Executive Officer, Dave Zuchowski, and is readying a revamped Sonata sedan, due later in the year, to help best its record 720,783 deliveries in 2013.

Along with new and enhanced safety features, a better audio system and quieter cabin, Genesis -- named car of the year in 2009 at the Detroit show -- adds technology, including an application for owners of Google Inc.’s Glass designed to work with the BlueLink telematics system.

Growth Goals

The car will have a base price below $40,000, Hyundai said, without providing a volume goal.

The Seoul-based company last month named Zuchowski to replace John Krafcik, who’d led the U.S. unit for five years, without elaborating on reasons for the change.

Hyundai should end the year with a 4.7 percent share of the U.S. market, a small improvement from last year’s 4.6 percent, Zuchowski said in an interview yesterday. Longer-term, Seoul-based Hyundai’s U.S. goal is a 5 percent share, with the new Genesis and Sonata models driving gains, Zuchowski said.

“It’s really important to show this wasn’t a one-hit wonder, and we’ll show that this year as we get new products,” he said. “Five percent market share is very important for us. We’re not going to get there this year, but we’re going to turn around the market-share loss.”

The unit’s volume target is 745,000 vehicles this year, up about 4 percent from 2013, said Zuchowski, who isn’t planning immediate changes in U.S. strategy.

“What’s really nice for me is I’m inheriting a company that’s very strong, it’s growing, it’s got momentum and it’s really not struggling in any way,” he said. “There is no mandate for immediate change.”

Hyundai’s U.S. unit is based in Fountain Valley, California.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.