Consumer Reports issued a press release yesterday stating that the Hyundai Genesis has taken the title of Top-Rated Upscale Sedan for 2009, besting the Lexus ES 350 - Lexus' best-selling vehicle - 2009 Acura TL, 2009 Nissan Maxima, 2009 Lincoln MKS, Pontiac G8 and seven other sedans. "The Hyundai Genesis rivals high-end luxury sedans but costs considerably less," said David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, in the release. "Its luxurious and spacious interior and quietness far transcend its relatively modest price."
Apparently, Hyundai has been reading Lexus' playbook.
When the Lexus LS 400 debuted in 1989, it took the luxury market in the U.S. by storm. That year, with a price tag of just $38,000, the LS was rated better than the $63,000 Mercedes-Benz 420 SEL and the $55,000 BMW 735i by Car and Driver. Sales of BMW and Mercedes tanked 29 percent and 19 percent, respectively. In one year, the Lexus brand, which included the LS 400 and the ES 250, became the number one luxury import in the U.S., and since 2000 it has been the best-selling luxury brand in the country.
Hyundai started selling the Genesis, its first luxury vehicle, last year. The Genesis starts at a price of $33,000, including destination charges - undercutting every competitor in its class. Its reception by the media has been overwhelmingly positive, and, more importantly, consumers have flocked to the new car. Even in a market where vehicle financing is at a virtual stand-still and automotive sales as a whole are tanking, the Genesis has reached or surpassed its sales goals thus far.
By undercutting its competition on price while still providing the same value, Hyundai has done exactly the same thing to the luxury market today that Lexus did to the market in the 1980s. Could this be the beginning of the rise of a new automotive luxury sales king? Only time will tell, but if the Lexus LS is our historical reference point and the Genesis continues down its current path, success seems inevitable for Hyundai.
Consumer Reports' complete list of top picks and recommended vehicles will appear in its February issue.