The Story Behind The New Global Luxury Car Brand Genesis
Genesis New York Concept
Peter Schreyer is a much revered figure within the auto design world. A mere mention of his name, and colleagues smile with admiration for he is credited for sketching the original TT - the 1998 Audi that turned heads with its formal simplicity, clean aesthetic and cool Bauhaus-inspired design.
Nowadays, as creative director of Hyundai-Kia and one of three presidents of the company, Schreyer has been instrumental in creating the existing theme. Under his astute eyes, the South Korean company has metamorphosed into an exciting car brand with an inspired portfolio to compete head-on with older, more established rivals. Lately, Schreyer has been busy inventing a new global luxury marque, Genesis.
“Recently a journalist asked if the world needs another luxury brand,” he offers as we settle down for coffee, “to which I replied: ‘I don’t know but Hyundai wants a luxury brand’,” he smiles. The South Korean economy is blossoming, as is Hyundai-Kia. “I think the time has come and we need to be building something special at the pinnacle of the brand. It fits with the Korean mentality.”
Peter Schreyer honored in the 2013 Golden Steering Wheel awards
Genesis is being developed primarily for the US, South Korea, Middle East and China, with the European markets planned in the horizon. The idea is to deliver six new models before 2020. The G90 and G80 have already been launched, there will be a G70 followed by two SUVs and a sports coupé.
I’m interested in Schreyer’s take on his second home for the German spends much of his time commuting between the design studios in Russelsheim and Seoul. “There is a duality to Korean culture – on the one hand they are very daring but also strategic thinkers.” It is a culture deeply rooted in tradition and craftsmanship, yet on the polar side is hyper modernity, “the electronics, tech, art, fashion, music, K-pop - there is such a vibe in Seoul,” his face lights up, “and knowingly or unknowingly it influences us designers.”
We discuss the concept of modern luxury, of how a new car marque like Genesis has the chance for a fresh approach, explore new materials that resonate with the millennials, respond to their wants, their needs. Schreyer admits that he is very much aware of the urgency to rethink the automobile for younger generations who are not connecting so strongly with traditional concepts of luxury.
He offers: “This is a very interesting subject for us: how to use intelligent fabrics, how to express modern luxury.” To this end his team are working with students at the prestigious London Royal College of Art and the Art Centre College in California researching new ways to express luxury that are, according to him, more exciting and rewarding.
Recently, Schreyer ruffled a few auto feathers as he hired the former Bentley design boss, the maverick Luc Donckerwolke and Lamborghini’s Manfred Fitzgerald to head up the Genesis creative studio. The strong team of creatives indicates Hyundai-Kia’s high hopes for Genesis.
I ask Schreyer how he would define the marque. His answer is candid: “As it is something totally new, it is something we’re still working on. We try not to copy other brands but make our own story.” With its restrained sensibility the New York Concept, the hybrid sports sedan revealed at the New York Auto Show in March, is a good screen shot of this design philosophy. It will form the basis for the upcoming G70 and Schreyer admits some elements will find their way to future Genesis cars.
New York Concept
He is visibly thrilled about this new venture. “It is a great project; you see we get to design a new brand the way we feel it should be. We have a great opportunity here. We have Hyundai and Kia, but Genesis is something completely different. It has to be a brand on its own. This is important from an intellectual side.”
Earlier in the week I popped by London’s Tate Modern gallery to see French artist Philippe Parreno’s mesmerising light installation take over the length and the height of the Turbine Hall. This is the annual Hyundai Commission project which sees an international artist create site-specific work for this epic space – and the funding by the car company is fundamental to these creative projects.
I tell Schreyer that a little while ago his colleague Donckerwolke showed me a colorful abstract painting of his. I didn’t realize he dabbles in art. He smiles, nodding enthusiastically: “I wanted to be an artist since I was 14. I wanted to be Dali!” But does the free-thinking world of the fine arts feed into his more restricted transport design world? “We can learn a great deal from art and the way artists think,” he responds. “Questions are always arising in design and I say to my team, always try to think completely in the opposite direction.”