SEOUL – Manfred Fitzgerald carries pedigree credentials as an auto executive.
The former director-brand and design for Lamborghini now heads Genesis, the luxury division of South Korean automaker Hyundai.
Two-year-old Genesis is a relatively new brand that adds a third vehicle to its 3-car lineup. Fitzgerald talks about brand building and the new G70 sedan at its debut here.
WardsAuto: Who is going to buy the G70?
Fitzgerald: Anyone who looks for a car that covers both bases. It is a driving-oriented car that’s athletic, as we say, and at the same time it is elegant. We found a great mix and balance between those two.
WardsAuto: Are you looking primarily to conquest Mercedes-Benz and BMW or are you looking to bring mainstream car buyers up to premium?
Fitzgerald: It remains to be seen and it is up to the customers to choose our cars and brand. We’ll see if it comes from other brands or from upgrading.
WardsAuto: So far, who has been buying Genesis?
Fitzgerald: Across the line. We definitely have customers coming from other brands, but we also have customers upgrading themselves. It’s a portfolio of all customer types.
WardsAuto: How much brand development is required to be successful for a new brand?
Fitzgerald: Developing product is only one part of the equation. To be successful, you have to have a great brand and great product. One cannot live without the other. Focusing on and developing the brand definitely is as important as developing great products.
WardsAuto: You have the advantage of working with a clean slate but isn’t it hard to enter a luxury market with so many established and strong competitors?
Fitzgerald: It’s always a challenge. But what is not a challenge? If you believe it’s too hot in that kitchen, you should stay out. We have a great mix of incredible talent on our bench. We have a deep bench in design and engineering. We also have great people who know how to establish a brand.
So I’m not worried at all in our ability to get our foot down and being desirable for customers.
WardsAuto: How does this differ from sister-brand Kia's Stinger that is about to hit the market?
Fitzgerald: You tell me. I don’t look at the Stinger. We’re focusing on something totally different.
WardsAuto: The G70 and the Stinger share the same platform (and engine) though.
Fitzgerald: That’s a stretch. Other cars share the same platform, and you wouldn’t be asking that question. As a corporation, it is normal and makes economic sense to share platforms and components. It’s all about how you bring across to the customer that they don’t feel they are driving or seeing the same car.