Hyundai global chief of design and company vice president Peter Schreyer has stewarded the Kia and Hyundai brands quite skillfully over the last few years. Now, he is tasked with taking Hyundai into new territory with the ambitious Genesis luxury sub-brand. How will its products be different than lesser Hyundais? We sat down with the man to get some insight.
Car and Driver: Hyundai has announced that there will be six Genesis models by 2020. How will the Hyundai and Genesis brands be different in terms of design?
Peter Schreyer: I think for me the main differentiation is not how we treat the surfaces; I see it a bit more from a philosophical standpoint. The Genesis is rear-wheel drive; and all of [the Genesis models] are going to have that. And in proportion this will differentiate them completely from other Hyundais. The current Genesis [which will be renamed G80—Ed.] and the G90 will have that long-hood, front-wheels-far-forward proportion that gives them that kind of premium, classic feeling. This to me is more important than to say that it’s going to have one [badge] more on the hood or something like this. And of course we’re going to differentiate by the grille design and things like that.
Also, within the Genesis brand we’re going to have more consistency than in the Hyundai brand, which can be more variable, because [with Hyundai] there are so many different segments. We make so many [market-specific] products for China, and India, and this market, and Europe. For example, the Elantra is done mainly for here and Korea, but in Europe we have the i30. We’re putting our focus on different cars for different markets. With Genesis it will be more general. The Genesis will be the same car everywhere. I think the important market for Genesis will be [the U.S.]
C/D: If you could use three key words to describe Genesis design, what would they be?
PS: Proportion. Proportion. Proportion. There will be a few other things. I think it’s important to be authentic in materials, but we need our own expression especially in front-end design. But the overall feeling comes from the proportion.
This is something that has to crystallize out of our work. It’s very difficult to describe. Once you see several products together I think you will realize and you will see it, but to describe it at the moment is difficult.
C/D: What would you LIKE to see with Genesis design?
PS: I think it’s important that they not look like a me-too product. I think we need to create our own kind of atmosphere. It’s difficult to describe; we need a little time, and when we have the products we can talk about it.
We have created a new department for Genesis design. So we are separating our design team a bit, but it all grows out of Hyundai, which is good. This is a Korean company and there are some interesting things in the Asian culture—art, Asian craftsmanship, architecture—and things that kind of influence us. I think it’s important that we feel a bit of that heritage also.
C/D: So we will see an Asian influence?
PS: Not the way you might think. Korea has a lot of history in calligraphy, and in the concentration of working in ceramics, and the way they build their houses. At the same time, Korea has a very modern and almost revolutionary youth movement. It’s the combination of all those things that make work in a Korean company very interesting. Each time I go there, I learn a lot about this culture. And it’s also something that is driving us because the Korean mentality is that they’re always asking for something new. It helps me because I’m not falling into a rhythm of creating the same thing over and over.
C/D: How hands-on are you as a designer?
PS: Very much. I am a designer. And to a certain extent, you cannot do it by [issuing an] order. You cannot say to someone “please do it like that.” I need to go to the models and talk to the designers; at that moment, the hierarchy is not important to me. I walk around with him or her and say, “Look at this thing that’s sticking out here. I want more this and that. Look at your sketch, and if you can see this, I want more of it.” I like to work with the guys, hands-on, not as the executive to keep them in line but to see what I think would balance the model.
C/D: Will Kia have its own version of Genesis?
PS: I don’t think that is necessary. I think Kia has a more compact product range. Of course, at Kia we make cars for all kinds of markets, but I still see Kia as a bit more compact and Hyundai is a big company. Hyundai is like a big pyramid, and Genesis is the top of that pyramid. It’s like a company that makes very good wine but now they’re making champagne, as well; it’s the same company and the same grapes, but it’s a different thing. The Kia pyramid is maybe a bit narrower and a bit more pointed than the Hyundai one.
C/D: What will characterize Hyundai brand design moving forward?
PS: Make it strong. I think Hyundai with Fluidic Sculpture has made remarkable change—it has influenced the rest of the industry, quite honestly. When it was first introduced, it was quite extreme and spectacular. And so Hyundai has its own strong will, somehow—daring and self-confident, doing its own thing. I want to continue that kind of attitude, even let it ripen more and give it more control. Put another way, when we talk about Fluidic Sculpture, we tend to talk about only the surface. But I think it needs some structure and architecture underneath, so it’s not just a free-floating, big show of lines and surfaces but it’s actually a tight suit that goes over a body.
C/D: What are the specific things between the last Elantra and the new Elantra that you wanted to change or add that we will see more of moving forward?
PS: The difficulty is that the last Elantra was a very good car. But I think the new one is a bit more mature-looking. The new one is stronger and more dynamic and powerful-looking. If you look at the hood and the shape, it has a presence, a really dynamic presence. It has grown a little bit in size and volume but it still looks sporty, almost like a four-door coupe, and I think that is very cool. It’s not just a boring family-carrier.
C/D: The sketch of the G90 sedan that was released recently, it looks pretty translatable to production . . .
PS: If you remember the Vision G, we had a windscreen very far back and it’s very exaggerated, but this car carries the inspiration for the G90, so if you take the [Vision G] and make it a bit higher in the roof and put four doors [on it], you get pretty close to what it is. Maybe you make the wheels one size smaller. The front is pretty close. The Vision G is the messenger, with a twinkle in its eye—a preview. I hope that when we show the actual G90 that we get the show car with it so you can actually see the similarities.
C/D: When will we see it?
PS: In Korea, it’s going to be called the EQ900, and it’s going to be unveiled before the end of the year.