In Alfa Romeo vs. Hyundai, newcomer may have the edge – Detroit Free Press
Quick, which luxury brand will reach 400,000 annual sales first: Hyundai’s new Genesis brand or Fiat Chrysler’s reboot of Alfa Romeo? If global projections aren’t your bag, which brand will sell 50,000 in the United States first?
My money’s on the brand that hasn’t sold a car yet, the one that has no history of dealing with luxury customers.
Yep, I suspect upstart Hyundai is about to kick a celebrated global brand with a glorious history to the curb. That’s not to say FCA’s plan for Alfa is doomed, but it was extremely optimistic even before the bottom fell out of CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plans for big sales in China, where incidentally, Alfa has never sold a car.
Hyundai’s plan to build a luxury brand on the back of the Genesis sport sedan is ambitious, but at least the Genesis exists. That’s more than you can say for the pack of upcoming vehicles Alfa is counting on. The original Genesis sedan was 2009 North American Car of the Year. The second generation Genesis which went on sale a year ago was a breakthrough: competitive with cars like the Audi A6 and Lexus GS.
And don’t forget the Hyundai Equus. Smart aleck critics like me make light of the big sedan. It’s an easy target, with its funny name, goofy hood ornament and Lincoln Town Car-esque ride and handling. We laugh at our own risk, though. In room and comfort, the Equus is a credible 21st Century limousine, with a CEO-ready back seat.
It’s no accident Hyundai is the automaker Toyota fears most. The Korean automaker is a fast learner with deep pockets. Toyota’s Lexus luxury began the week riding high on praise its LF-FC luxury sedan concept won at the Tokyo auto show. By Wednesday, you can bet it was looking over its shoulder.
Nobody doubts Hyundai’s ability to launch the six new luxury models it’s announced by 2020. Hyundai also has a proven ability to sell crossover SUVs, the hottest growth segment of the luxury market.
Hyundai dealers must learn how to satisfy luxury buyers, but at least Hyundai has dealers in every major market in the United States and Europe.
The first cars from the Genesis luxury brand may not be great, but you can rest assured they’ll get built and it’ll be easy to find a dealer for sales or service.
Contrast that with the questions facing Alfa Romeo:
Hyundai has evidence on its side. Alfa Romeo has hope.
Let’s be clear, the 4c sports coupe and roadster that constitute Alfa Romeo’s entire current U.S. lineup are exceptional. They look great, handle better and feature engines and lightweight construction that augur well for the technology and performance of future Alfas. The Alfa Giulia sport sedan that makes its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles auto show this month presents a passionate Italian alternative to stoic German sport sedans.
If it seems like I’m bending over backwards trying to be optimistic about Alfa, I am. The brand has a history of building beautiful, exciting cars. If you like cars, you should want Alfa Romeo to succeed.
But while I hope Alfa Romeo succeeds, I expect Genesis to be the start of something big.
Contact Mark Phelan: email@example.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.