SEOUL: South Korea’s Hyundai Motor launched on Wednesday a high-end brand named after its Genesis line of vehicles as it looks to expand its presence in the fast-growing luxury auto market.
Hyundai, which together with affiliate Kia is the world’s fifth largest carmaker, said its premium Genesis brand will offer six models by 2020, including its existing luxury sedan launched in 2013 and another large sedan to be unveiled next month.
The company has boosted its high-end auto line ups including Genesis and Equus in recent years in a bid to shed its image as a cheaper alternative to bigger rivals like Toyota.
The Genesis models—first introduced in 2008 —have won a series of awards for design and are said to be more refined than the firm’s past vehicles.
The existing sedan to be included in the luxury portfolio is priced at up to $54,000 before tax in the US.
“High-end cars account for only 10 percent of the global market but . . . the sector is leading the industry in terms of technology and design,” Hyundai vice chairman Chung Eui-Sun said at a press conference.
“I am confident that the launch of the new brand will play a major role in our future growth,” he added, saying consumer demand for luxury cars is growing faster than the overall auto market.
Global shipments of luxury cars grew 9.7 percent in 2014, outpacing the overall market growth of 4.2 percent, according to market research firm IHS. The brand’s new vehicles, including a luxury SUV and sports coupe, will not carry the Hyundai label but simply the Genesis logo, in the same way that Toyota’s Lexus brand only carries its own logo.
Hyundai has meanwhile hired as head of its global design Luc Donckerwolke, a famed designer who previously worked for top automakers such as Bentley and Lamborghini.
The latest announcement came as South Korea’s top carmaker struggled with eroding profit stemming from a strong won that has blunted its price competitiveness overseas.
The firm last month reported a 25-percent drop in its third-quarter net profit—a seventh consecutive drop in quarterly profit—warning of “many challenges” ahead with slowing demand in Chinese market and uncertainties about the US economic outlook.