Last year when Hyundai made the decision to branch off into the luxury space with its new Genesis brand, the man selected to lead the charge was Michael Ricciuto. OpenRoad recently sat down with the new brand director, who has over 30 years of industry experience under his belt, to talk about initial public perception, the company’s unique sales approach and where things are headed.
Are people embracing Genesis as a separate entity?
Ricciuto: It’s not going to be easy because we knowingly took a Hyundai-badged model and utilized the good opinion that it had and launched a standalone luxury brand. Everyone keeps saying we have to completely separate from Hyundai. You’re never going to completely separate, it’s impossible to do. Can Lexus really separate from Toyota, or Audi from Volkswagen?
I think what we’re trying to do is be truly authentic and that’s the most important piece. The authenticity of our product and the way that we’re going to market is more important, like how we’re not selling cars through Hyundai dealerships. We decided to launch through our virtual method until we get our stores built so we’re going to stay standalone.
And our products are actually all dedicated platforms for the Genesis brand. People don’t know this, but there’s no component sharing between Hyundai cars and Genesis. They’re completely unique unlike a lot of brands.
Speaking of which, how did adopting the Hyundai Genesis sedan name come about?
Ricciuto: There was a lot of debate on that. Do we start an all-new nameplate, or do we take a product that already has some recognition in the marketplace? So we thought it would be more important to start with some brand recognition and some positive opinion rather than trying to create something literally from scratch. So it was just a business decision at a corporate level.
Has this caused some confusion?
Ricciuto: Lots. So we have people going to the Hyundai website wondering, “Where’s my Genesis model? People asking, “Well, didn’t you guys already have Genesis?” So it’s going to take some time, but once we launch our new G70 next year, and then we have our two SUVs coming and our sports car, I think that overlap between the Hyundai and Genesis brands is going to go away.
I know you’re eventually going to be building some brick and mortar stores. In the meantime, do potential customers get the virtual shopping method?
Ricciuto: All of our conquest buyers have been very good — they’re contacting us directly. So the way it works is you contact us, Genesis Motors Canada, to schedule a test drive and we bring our car to you. It’s actually our brand promise. We are going to be focusing on Genesis at Home, that’s what we call our at-home service, as the foundation of what our brand is going to stand for.
In fact, our brick and mortar stores are going to be a fraction of what you’re going to see coming from the BMWs, Mercedes’ and Audis, literally a quarter of the size. Because we think the future is going to be people wanting a convenient place to go look at a car if they want to go look at it, but we think online shopping and the direct sales model is what’s going to resonate with consumers going forward.
Can you talk a bit more about the buying process?
Ricciuto: [The cars] come directly from us, so the agent — we call them agents because they act like a real estate agent, they don’t own the property but they do the legwork in selling the property — basically just gets paid a commission. We own the whole transactional process and that way we have one website, one fixed price and there’s no delivery fees and any of that kind of stuff. It’s all built in, even all of our F and I (finance and insurance) so any accessories, insurance products or extended warranties are all sold through us.
What does Genesis hope to achieve in the near future?
Ricciuto: What we want to be known for is the luxury car company that comes to you.