Hyundai Goes Big-Time in the Big Apple

March 28th, 2007

When you think “Hyundai,” you think “compact” or “affordable,” don’t you? The Korean automaker’s betting on the New York Auto Show to start changing that.

At next week’s New York International Automobile Show, Hyundai will preview its Genesis concept car, a rear-drive V8 sedan with a lot of power and a full array of bells and whistles (adaptive cruise control, tilt-steering, high-intensity headlights, Bluetooth capability–all the goodies that make us American drivers feel pampered behind the wheel). And with a 300-horsepower output, Hyundai’s 32-valve Tau engine may be the sexiest thing about the new power sedan.

Hyundai Genesis ConceptIt’s a nice-looking car, if its preview photos are any indication. Its sleek, swooping lines aren’t particularly original, but the Genesis concept has the kind of solid-but-speedy look that marks luxury performance sedans from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and of course the U.S. Big Three automakers.

One difference, though, is that Hyundai plans to deliver this mid-size sport perfomance sedan for a dealer price under $30,000. If they can do this at this price point, with consistent quality, that’s going to make quite a splash in the U.S. market. Another idea that’s been in the works (though this isn’t confirmed by Hyundai to date) is that the Genesis will be produced with a number of different engine options, including a hybrid version.

A well-performing four-door hybrid with a dash of style would probably find a market niche full of eager buyers. Hybrids are hot sellers; people who might feel guilty about buying a new car are salving their conscience by being green.

If the Genesis lives up to its hype, there are lots of suburban soccer moms and yoga dads who may be looking for something just like it.

Hyundai has announced its plans to put the Genesis concept into production for 2008; we’ll be watching to see what happens. Right now, there’s a lot of buzz about the car, and it definitely looks like one of the big draws for next week in New York.

This year’s auto shows have been an interesting batch, with a lot of creativity shown in both the concept vehicles and their presentation (I’m thinking of the Scion marketing team’s strategies in reaching out to young drivers, for instance). With a few exceptions, though (the Chevy Volt being a notable one), most of the innovation is coming from overseas.

Now Hyundai, which used to be a punchline for jokes about little putt-putting cars, is stepping into the V8 arena with the European and American manufacturers. If the Genesis is as appealing in production as it is in concept, that’s going to be another tough blow for Detroit. (And perhaps an ego boost for Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, et al.!)

For more about the Hyundai Genesis concept car, Damon Lavrinc has a preview at AutoBlog.com. Erik Johnson goes in-depth at CarAndDriver.com.

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