Detroit 2013: The Future is Hyundai’s HCD-14 Concept

“We didn’t install putting greens in our dealers…why not save people time that they could spend on real golf courses?”

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik is no stranger to pragmatic platitudes like this, especially at auto shows. And for good reason: Hyundai has ridden the pragmatism train–releasing models with premium features and affordable prices, sold at no-nonsense dealers–to financial success and relative praise. His company’s strategy of letting Equus owners use valets to pick-up/drop-off their cars for maintenance or service–eliminating the need for the aforementioned dealer putting greens–has earned praise among pundits and the half of Equus owners who have used it. But Hyundai’s Detroit auto show press conference wasn’t about the Elantra or Sonata (which had their best sales years in 2012); instead, Krafcik and company turned their attention to Hyundai’s premium offerings.

The car you see above is dubbed the HCD-14 Genesis Concept; still, Krafcik had a message for the press assembled in Cobo Hall: what you see here is NOT the new Genesis with suicide doors and some futuristic technology–that car will take to the stage exactly a year from today. Instead, the HCD-14 is a showcase–a concept that previews the next-generation Genesis (and potentially Equus) sedan from a design and technology standpoint.

To that end, the car has all the things you’d expect from a next-gen premium Hyundai: a 5.0-liter, 429-hp Tau V-8 engine, rear-wheel drive, and sculpted seating for at least four. The simple BlueLink telematics system might still be there, but it’s powered by a Minority Report-esque gesture and retina control, where shifting your gaze can shift your task or application. While features like these are usually just ideas, indicated by some slick-looking plastic on the dashboard, Krafcik promises that the controls are functional on the concept. We’ll believe it when we see it, no pun intended. Elsewhere around the cabin, the wood paneling in the car is actually wood–strips of matte-brown material laid across the futuristic center stack. The front and rear-end styling is unlike anything we’ve seen from Hyundai, more a futuristic interpretation of the Peugeot 508 than a gussied-up Sonata.

We can laugh about concepts and strange technology all day, but the fact of the matter is this: the HCD-14 is actually quite important for Hyundai. Hyundai stands by the fact that its Genesis and Equus have residual values that match or beat German and Japanese competitors. While Hyundai’s mass-market cars maintain a 5.3-percent market share in the U.S., the Genesis and Equus maintain a 9-percent market share. The HCD-14, with its ideas and projections, is an indication that the company recognizes its relative success in the luxury sedan market, and wants to continue it. And for fans of Lincoln, soured by the announcement that future Lincoln cars won’t use rear-wheel drive and probably won’t use V-8 engines, there’s an interesting upside: the future of premium Hyundai vehicles seems to be V-8 and RWD.