The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

(Bloomberg) -- There’s an adage in the car business that says automotive success depends on a task that’s simple to say, but difficult to do: Make good products. If you build them well, it promises, the buyers will come.

The 2019 Genesis G70 has earned critical acclaim from the likes of Car and Driver and CNET, and high ratings from J.D.Power and Consumer Reports. It was even nominated as the 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

But the company itself seems wrecked. Over the first six months of this year, Genesis sales in the U.S. fell 36.3 percent compared with the same period in 2017. In July the brand sold less than 800 vehicles nationwide, a 50 percent decline year-over-year and the first time it dipped under 1,000 units per month. Genesis provides only 3 percent of parent company Hyundai’s sales; Toyota gets 14 percent from its own premium brand, Lexus.

The discrepancy could be attributed to a dealer issue. Hyundai has made some knee-jerk moves here, setting up a limited number of separate Genesis dealerships after initially using existing Hyundai dealers, before flip-flopping to allow franchises for all Hyundai dealers. Perhaps it’s the lack of brand recognition, as it fights among other premium carmakers who have been in the market for decades.

But the guys at Bloomberg Intelligence tell me it’s a “flagrant miscalculation” of the market more than anything. Genesis has three sedans in its lineup at a time when the rest of the luxury market is banking on SUVs. This makes Genesis a 100 percent car brand in a market that is 70 percent truck. The total U.S. automotive market is 70 percent skewed toward truck sales and will likely go higher.

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

“An automaker can build the greatest sedans in the world, and they will still wish they had invested the time and money in a truck,” says Bloomberg Intelligence’s senior autos analyst, Kevin Tynan.

The cars, anyway, are indeed good. I would quibble with that Motor Trend nomination, but that’s not my monkey, not my circus. I drove a G90 in 2017 and found that “the level of luxury really did set it apart from its economy-minded siblings” and that “Genesis has come strongly out of the gate with this flagship sedan.” The Essentia Concept looks cool, though it’s years away from being production-ready. And the fuel cell SUV can’t come soon enough. Genesis says it will produce two CUVs and at least one sports coupe by 2021.

Last week I test-drove the 2019 G70 sedan ($50,995 as tested) in New York City. It’s an important car for Genesis because it’s the third of six new models Genesis will introduce by 2021, and it’s the final sedan of the lineup. It’s the smaller, entry-level-style car from the premium brand. 

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

Genesis deserves high marks for offering some great ways to make it exactly what you want. It comes with two engine variants: a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged gasoline V6 or a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline inline 4-cylinder. With either engine, G70 is available with standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. There is even an optional six-speed manual version, something Genesis press materials describe as a “rare treat.” I wish I had been able to taste that treat. My 3.3-liter Turbo V6 version had eight-speed automatic paddle shifting and AWD.

The car has 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque—the most power of any entry-level premium sedan in the segment—and a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds on the RWD version. That’s if you’re using launch control, which sounds like something that should be reserved for Lamborghinis and McLarens, not a Hyundai. I guess you can’t fault Hyundai for aspiring to greatness.

It drives fine. It’s capable. The overall feeling is smooth, as if it had no rough edges. Punch the gas or step on the brakes, and it feels well-balanced. It doesn’t roll as you take a tight corner. Better yet, it gets as much as 30 mpg on the highway. I just didn’t get a strong sense of personality here. Or even especially tight, athletic handling. For that, you should look elsewhere, such as the BMW 3-Series. There’s a reason one of every four BMWs sold is a 3-Series.

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

Inside the cabin is lots of head- and legroom, and the back and rear side windows have ample visibility. It comes standard with these cool extras: dual automatic climate control, a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, two front USB ports, and an 8-inch display audio screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Heated rear seats, Nappa leather, heads-up display, and a Qi wireless charging pad. All are standard on the G70 Prestige 2.0T version like the one I drove. There’s even a rearview camera to help with parking. A-plus on those, guys.

I also like how this car looks on the outside, as did most of the garage attendants where I parked. A wide, diamond-lattice grille, low body, and slim headlights separate it from similar vehicles from BMW (3-Series), Acura (ILX), Lexus (IS), and Audi (A4). Small details such as sides that are cut out and a hood that’s raised a little in the center give it a dynamic look when it’s in motion. (One garage attendant asked if the car was a Bentley. I’m not sure if this says more about the car or about him.)

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

Sedans in this category are shaped first and foremost by kowtowing to safety standards and efficiency, not actually, you know, looking cool, so Genesis top designer Luc Donckerwolke deserves praise here. (He was head of design at Lamborghini, where he made the Lamborghini Diablo, the 2002 Lamborghini Murciélago, and 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo.) If you get this car, an available wide sunroof, 19-inch sport alloy wheels, and an amplified exhaust sound will all help announce your presence even more overtly as you drive it home.

And yet, a car can look great on paper but lack the magic of timing and energy. It will be years before Genesis gains the glow of a truly respected, established player in the luxury market. (There’s an SUV or two or three coming by 2020.) But for the few non-SUV buyers left out there, this also gives them some leverage: If you know Hyundai dealers are struggling to sell anything, that’s negotiating power. And if you can talk yourself into an amenable deal on this sedan, which starts at $45,750, you’ll still have an edge against the ubiquitous other sedans your neighbors drive. It’s worth a look.

The Genesis G70 Is a Good Car, But Who’s Buying?

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.