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Genesis Head Designer: Our SUVs Have No Design Benchmark

We chat with Luc Donckerwolke at the recent L.A. auto show

We chat with Luc Donckerwolke at the recent L.A. auto show

The Genesis brand has been on a roll lately. After debuting three sedans in three years—including the G70, the 2019 MotorTrend Car of the Year—Genesis is now looking to expand its lineup with SUVs. The GV80 Concept, which debuted at the 2017 New York auto show, was the first SUV ever to be seen from Genesis, and the production version could be ready next year. We talked to Luc Donckerwolke, the newly appointed chief design officer of Hyundai Motor Group, at the L.A. auto show about the upcoming SUVs from the luxury brand.

The GV80, which should compete against the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, is expected to arrive as a 2021 model, and its design is finished. Donckerwolke added that we should expect its styling to stay close to the concept from New York, which featured a futuristic look with clean and crisp lines.

The Genesis GV80 concept

“Just to give you an idea, the same design team that designed the GV80 concept [also] designed the production model,” Donckerwolke said. “So what you’ve seen it’s basically the design. Again, it’s more mature, it has more quality and more functionality applied to it, but it’s basically designed.”

Donckerwolke also said that we should expect a different design flavor in Genesis’ two upcoming SUVs. The GV70 could compete against the Volvo XC60, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLC, and like the G70 sedan, it could bring more sportiness to the lineup.

“And the two SUVs will also have—like the G90, G80, G70—their own personality, and so the GV80 is the bigger one. There will be another one, which will be more sporty, more emotional, but we will play the same strategy. Each car will have its own identity,” he said. The designer also alluded that there’s another SUV coming, and we’ve heard rumors about a compact crossover joining Genesis’ lineup.

Given that Genesis is a new brand, Donckerwolke and his team enjoy the freedom they have with their designs, but his main goal is to differentiate the styles from the competition. When asked if he had a benchmark, he said: “I mean, I’m trying not to because if we have a target, if we have somebody we’re looking at, we are limiting ourselves. I would like to have something quite unique and not targeting a company itself. Obviously, the whole architecture—like Mercedes and BMW, a rear-wheel-drive architecture—but we’re not really looking at them, and especially not in terms of design. I don’t want to look at them because we have a situation that nobody has. We are a new brand; so to target one competitor is actually limiting ourselves. It’s taking the freedom I have at the moment to create something unique, and obviously it’s difficult to make something unique when everything has been done already.”

With that freedom, Donckerwolke and his team are making sure their SUVs stand out in the crowded segment, adding functionality with other touches. He said: “An SUV is giving you a typology of vehicle that is addressing all the needs we have in terms of leisure functionality and professional functionality, but with a different flavor. When you do a sedan and you want to give a flavor, you give it sportiness—hinting at the race car. When you do an SUV, you give it the flavor—what I call the Marlboro man flavor. It’s the cowboy. It’s the adventurer that everyone wants to be. This is what we’re giving to SUVs. This is why I believe that we have to give more emotionality to these SUVs.”

We’ll have to wait until next year to get a taste of Genesis’ SUV flavor.