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Dead-Sexy Genesis Essentia Concept Will Spawn a Limited Edition Coupe

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/6/2018 Motor Trend Staff

Genesis Essentia Concept front three quarter 02© Motor Trend Staff Genesis Essentia Concept front three quarter 02

It's easy to look at the flowing lines of the Genesis Essentia concept and dismiss it as another flight of fancy for the fledgling luxury brand working to build awareness since it broke away from Hyundai in 2016.

Unveiled at the 2018 New York auto show, the Essentia concept is a dead-sexy two-door electric grand tourer with butterfly doors, a carbon-fiber body, a transparent hood, copper wheels, and blue velvet carpeting.

a car parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

Many dismissed it as fiction, but Genesis intends to build it, confirms Erwin Raphael, executive director of Genesis North America, during a visit to Detroit. It will not be a high-volume car, he said. It will be a very limited edition and pricier than anything wearing the Genesis crest now, but it could sere as the lodestar for the brand seeking greater awareness.

"We are very committed to the Essentia," Raphael said. "We love the car. We think the car will do very well." Raphael did not provide a time frame, but Manfred Fitzgerald, global head of Genesis, has said it could be in production in 2021 or 2022, as almost everything on the concept is technically feasible. Show car features such as the butterfly doors would likely be replaced with conventional ones, design chief Peter Schreyer has said.

Parent company Hyundai created Genesis as a luxury brand in 2016 with the promise of six vehicles from three dedicated platforms by 2021. In the first three years Genesis has introduced three new sedans with promises of two crossovers and a sports coupe still to come.

a close up of a car© Motor Trend Staff

Essentia could be the sports coupe promised, or it could be a seventh model in the growing portfolio, Raphael said.

Although the Essentia was shown as an electric vehicle and the GV80 crossover concept has a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell, Genesis has no electrified vehicles on the market yet. Alternative powertrains are in the works, as the industry is trending that way and luxury buyers are driving demand for them. The Essentia show car rides on an electric architecture the company is experimenting with as it works to get an electric vehicle on the road by 2021.

Here is a rundown of vehicles introduced or in the pipeline:

The full-size 2017 G90 sedan replaced the Hyundai Equus as the flagship and was the first Genesis from a dedicated platform, meaning no sharing with Hyundai. On the "athletic elegant" scale Genesis is pursuing, it is at the elegant end.

The midsize G80 sedan replaced the Hyundai Genesis. It won't move to a Genesis-developed dedicated platform until the next generation, likely in 2021.

a car parked in a parking lot© Motor Trend Staff

The GV80 will be Hyundai's first crossover. The midsize crossover was expected next year, but Raphael said it will be early 2020.

The G70 compact sedan goes on sale soon and tips to the athletic side of "athletic elegance." Only 5 percent are expected to opt for the six-speed manual transmission, but the gearbox was never meant to drive incremental sales—it is a statement about the kind of car the G70 is, Raphael said. "It's for the customer who wants to drive like a maniac."

To celebrate the G70 launch there will be two special editions: 3.3T Design Edition and 3.3T Dynamic Edition. Both will be available this month and limited to 400 units of each. Pricing has not been announced, but the G70 will start about $35,000.

The G70 is on the second dedicated Genesis platform, known as C2, which will also underpin the GV70 crossover set to follow the GV80 to market.

C2 could yield a near-luxury compact sports coupe to fill the gap left when the Genesis coupe was discontinued after the 2016 model year.

a car parked in a parking lot© Motor Trend Staff

Genesis knows it cannot command prices in the same echelon as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Lexus in these early years, but the brand is trying to carve a name for itself by making a suite of safety systems standard, offering three years of complimentary maintenance and a service valet who picks up your car and leaves a courtesy sedan to use until your vehicle comes back from the dealership. Also included in the purchase price is three years of connected services, from navigation and traffic information to remote start. "We want customers to feel snuggled in safety," Raphael said.

Genesis is in a transition year. U.S. sales have taken a nosedive since March, when the brand stopped importing vehicles as dealers transition from the Hyundai distribution network to the new Genesis network. All 850 Hyundai dealers are being offered the choice of a Genesis franchise or a settlement payment to stop selling the brand.

Genesis has received the sales and service agreements it needs to operate in about 40 states so far and expects to have them all completed by the end of the year. Individual dealers must also get Genesis agreements and apply for state licenses before any cars will be shipped to them. The first licensed dealers will start getting vehicles this month, and all should have their paperwork in order by February.

Only Genesis dealers can sell 2019 models. Raphael expects the brand will have about 400 dealers initially, but attrition will reduce it somewhat, which would help throughput for the rest. Many will be Genesis dealerships within Hyundai dealerships, but the brand is hoping eventually all will be standalone.

The transition will hurt Genesis sales for 2018 and some of 2019, Raphael said. But as the portfolio grows with vehicles in some of the bigger segments, brand awareness will improve. It has gone from zero to 6 percent awareness in less than three years.

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