Q&A with Manfred Fitzgerald, head of Genesis Motors

The former Lamborghini exec now helms a new luxury brand

Credit: Genesis Motors
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Less than a year after Hyundai spun off its Genesis line as a separate luxury marque, the all-new Genesis G80 and G90 luxury sedans are about to hit dealerships.

We sat down with Manfred Fitzgerald, head of the Genesis brand, to talk about how Genesis plans to take on established competitors, what future cars will wear the Genesis badge, and why they aren’t being sold in standalone dealerships.

Manfred Fitzgerald
Credit: Genesis Motors
Manfred Fitzgerald, head of the Genesis brand, introduces the G90 at the New York Auto Show in November 2015.

Q: Why did Hyundai decide to spin off Genesis as a separate brand?

A: One would have to look at the history of Hyundai corporation, going back over 50 years. They have had an incredible success story so far—[one that’s] basically unprecedented.

For me, Genesis is the next logical step going forward for this corporation, of going into the most competitive field of the automotive industry—the luxury industry. There you can really prove your point, and you can prove your expertise and your creativity, and show the world what you’re really about.

I have not, in my career, seen any corporation so audacious as this company. That is definitely one character trait of Genesis. Tweet It

Q: We know what German luxury looks like, what British luxury looks like, and what Japanese luxury looks like. What is there that’s uniquely Korean about these cars that shines through?

A: I think what we have set out to do is, first of all, define who we are. Our DNA is definitely linked to the history of this corporation. I have not, in my career, seen any corporation so audacious as this company. That is definitely one character trait of Genesis.

Genesis New York Concept
Credit: Genesis Motors
The Genesis New York Concept is a preview of the sport sedan that will eventually go up against the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes C-Class.

The second one is being progressive—so being on our heels and looking out technology-wise and seeing what is out there. But I think the strongest attribute of all is being distinctly Korean. [That means] always looking for harmony, always trying to bring things into balance.

[We’re] introducing lots of new technology, but making the balance of asking, "Is this really good for the customer?" Not introducing technology for technology’s sake, and bringing in new things as a gadget, but really making customers’ lives better and easier—that’s definitely a guideline for us.

Q: How will Genesis differentiate itself from past attempts that Hyundai has made at building luxury cars?

A: As we have clearly said, we want to deliver a product that is, from our perspective, the best product you can buy in that segment. That automatically led us to crafting and bringing in more expertise to the whole equation. That means in terms of performance, in terms of driving dynamics, in terms of quality—there, we had to up our game on all levels, and we’re continuously doing that.

Our products will be comparable with everything you find out there now.

Vision G Concept
Credit: Genesis Motors
The Vision G concept previews an upcoming coupe from Genesis. Inside, the interior reflects a brand direction that Fitzgerald calls "harmonious."

Q: You came from Lamborghini. Other members of the team come from Audi, Volkswagen, Bentley, and BMW. How has the addition of veteran auto industry players shaped the direction of the Genesis brand?

A: We have a great cast. We have a great team of designers who have proven themselves in the industry. We don’t lack talent in that respect, and I believe that will resonate—especially here with American customers.

I think, first and foremost, [it brings] credibility. We’ve had some good careers so far, and we’ve proven ourselves in the past. I think what we’re intrigued by is the opportunity—which does not come around so often in a lifetime—of being part of crafting a new brand, of bringing a new brand to life. We’re humbled by having the opportunity of bringing in our expertise to help this brand get off the ground and show what we can deliver.

In terms of performance, in terms of driving dynamics, in terms of quality... we had to up our game on all levels Tweet It

Q: Beyond the G80 and G90 sedans, what’s coming next from Genesis?

A: We’re definitely going to introduce two SUVs. Different in size, different dimensions, different proportions—but they will have a definite handwriting. You’ll know without seeing the badge that they are true Genesis vehicles. We will start out with the large SUV first and come out with a smaller—if you will, a crossover—SUV later in the game.

Q: Why the move from names to alphanumerics?

A: Good question—one that I can’t answer because it was actually decided before I came. It has its pros and cons. Will we stick with it? I believe for the next models, which are coming up very, very soon, we will. After that, who knows? We might change that as well.

Genesis G90
Credit: Genesis Motors
Genesis' current flagship is the G90, an upscale sedan that replaces the Hyundai Equus. It will be sold in select Hyundai dealerships.

Q: Genesis won’t be developing its own dealerships. Instead, the cars will be sold from Hyundai dealers. What will that experience be like?*

A: This is one of the most difficult points of all, of bringing this brand to life. As I said previously, we want to do everything in a very mindful way. So we’re not going to go out there and try to burn down the house—we’re starting by putting one foot after the other in a very mindful way. That means we’re going to lean on the existing dealer network. But it won’t be limited to that—we will definitely branch out in look into ways of delivering our product and promise in a different way to customers.

Questions and responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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