Has anyone outside of the US really heard of Infiniti?
As of late, Korea's auto industry has been giving the world plenty of reason to reconsider its view that Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis are underdogs. The three automakers been on a roll. Not only have the three been releasing vehicles like the Telluride and Veloster N that prove Korea can give a practical crossover some sex appeal and make a small car wickedly fun, but this year's JD Power Initial Quality Study ranked all three brands at the very top of its list, with Genesis securing a solid first place win.
This is exactly the kind of momentum needed to get buyers to take notice and see the three brands as viable alternatives to the Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura. But if you ask Manfred Fitzgerald, Genesis' Executive Vice President & Global Brand Head, that kind of success hasn't happened because Korea is trying to mimic Japan.
Australia's Car Sales sat down with the executive and learned that he thinks Japanese automakers have gotten luxury all wrong, and he wants Genesis to succeed by doing things differently. "If you go to Europe and Germany, and ask the people there what Infiniti is, they'll say 'Infiniti, what's that: Is that an audio brand?'. They don't even know it as a car brand," says Fitzgerald. "Believe me, they have fantastic cars and fantastic design. What they did not really do in Europe, from my point of view, is take care of their brand and getting that right."
He adds, "That's something that most of the Asian brands fail in: that image of a luxury brand." While it's true that Fitzgerald's example wouldn't hold true in the US - almost every American car buyer knows the name Lexus and Infiniti - the point he's making is that Japan has done a poor job of marketing its luxury brands globally so that they become as well-known as BMW, Mercedes, or Audi.
In order to ensure its name doesn't end up with the same recognition gap that its Japanese rivals have, Genesis is ignoring Lexus and Infiniti entirely so that it can focus on competing more directly with Germany's premium automakers. "We're really focussing on other competitors out there," says Fitzgerald. "I don't know what Infiniti and Lexus are doing with their brands right now."
Given that Germany's automakers are making outdoing Japanese competitors by offering a much better line of performance cars and pushing electrification more heavily, Genesis is planning to follow that lead. The Korean luxury brand has already hinted that it's working on a performance car and has been pushing the narrative that the G70 is a true sports car, but it also has the electric Mint Concept that seems to be aimed at the European market.