Following a dour press conference at the Los Angeles auto show in November 2012, at which Hyundai America chief executive John Krafcik personally and summarily apologized for the company’s overstating fuel-economy claims, the mood could not have been more upbeat at the Korean automaker’s conference in Detroit on 14 January.
The attraction at the Hyundai display was the HCD-14 Genesis Concept, bearing style cues that are expected to find homes on future models.
“It’s not a disguised Genesis,” Krafcik said of the HCD-14, referencing the automaker’s luxury mid-size sedan, “but a guiding light for a portfolio of premium products coming”.
The HCD-14 gives a brash view of the brand’s future, a future that clearly involves the Genesis – hinted at by subtle “Genesis” badging in the door sills and taillights. Like the top specification of that sedan, the HCD-14 is based on a rear-drive platform and features a big, 5-litre V8 engine and an array of gee-whiz technology.
The exterior, devoid of door handles, mixes slashes with concave forms. Krafcik and North America design chief Chris Chapman, who presented the concept car, referenced the brand’s recent styling overhaul and promised “an equally bold transformation in our premium lineup”. In that category the Genesis is joined by the Equus full-size luxury sedan.
The interior of the HCD-14 is almost entirely devoid of buttons and switches, given over instead to voice commands and hand-gesture controls for radio and climate systems. While these features are still in development, they may ultimately pose problems for drivers who gesticulate behind the wheel. (“Did that vertical wave mean, ‘Activate windshield wipers’ or, ‘Get out of my lane, you wastrel’?” we could hear the little algorithms asking.)
Such technology would certainly benefit from some trial and error before the pie falls from the sky.
Other futuristic touches include eye-tracking technology, which theoretically registers particular eye movements as commands – the better to keep drivers’ minds on driving rather than fiddling with complex multimedia screens.
The next Genesis will likely continue benefitting from the customer service programmes Hyundai implemented for the launch of the Genesis and Equus sedans, such as valet service pickup and test drives at customers’ convenience.
“We want to defy convention and delight premium customers,” Krafcik said.
From a brand that continues to gain in sales, reputation and quality – albeit with a significant bump or two along the way – the HCD-14 may prove to be nothing but vaporware, but its maker’s unflagging optimism is anything but.