Genesis Motors Boss Pays No Attention to the Kia Stinger

“It’s all about how you bring across to the customer that they don’t feel they are driving or seeing the same car.” — Manfred Fitzgerald, Genesis Motors Senior Vice President

The 2018 Kia Stinger and 2018 Genesis G70 are platform partners, two new sporty and luxurious four-doors from the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group.

The timing of their release is synchronized. They utilize the same engine portfolio. They’ll compete in a similar price bracket. But there are differences. For starters, the styling is markedly different, the kind of difference one expects to find when one car, the Kia, is a hatchback and the other is a sedan. The Kia Stinger works harder to get noticed; the Genesis G70 is more subdued.

But while Hyundai’s Genesis spinoff will need to further differentiate the G70 from a marketing standpoint in order to provide a true luxury brand glow, it’s already been made clear by Albert Biermann, the former BMW chassis guru who’s now head of vehicle testing for Hyundai and Kia, that the cars are very similar. In terms of driving experience, “It’s not so easy maybe as with the styling, but I think we can find good tuning and calibration that set them a little bit apart,” Biermann said earlier this year.

A little bit.

Yet in a conversation with Manfred Fitzgerald, the senior vice president at the Genesis brand, Wards Auto received a strikingly different answer. Asked how the Genesis G70 differs from the Kia Stinger, Fitzgerald says, “You tell me. I don’t look at the Stinger. We’re focusing on something totally different.”

Your teenager calls this #shade.

Again, the two cars are different, different enough that buyers who favor the Genesis G70 might not even like the look of the Kia Stinger. The Audi A7 has proven that consumers — even American consumers — are willing to overlook a liftback. (The A7 easily outsells the Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example.) But there’s no denying Kia’s market is limited both by a bodystyle Americans have often rejected and, at the Stinger’s lofty price point, the Kia badge. The K900 hasn’t exactly displayed a collective American willingness to spend big on Kias, what with its $50K MSRP and 40 sales per month.

Manfred Fitzgerald, U.S. Genesis boss Erwin Raphael, and the entire Genesis team would have you believe Genesis is different. Premium vehicles that proudly wear Made In Korea on their sleeves will be perceived as high-end luxury. Genesis won’t move any further downmarket than the G70 in order to protect the aspirations of the brand. Genesis is more interested in crafting the right kind of image than selling the right number of vehicles, they’ll say.But then, in America, you’ll go to buy a Genesis G70 and discover that it’s being sold alongside the Hyundai Accent in the very same showroom, and you’ll wonder just how strong this luxury image really is. 350 of Hyundai’s 800 dealers sell Genesis’ sedans. Raphael wants that number to shrink; he also wants to speed up the process of building standalone Genesis stores.

Until then, however, what’s the big difference between the Genesis G70 and Kia Stinger? Wards doubled down and asked Manfred Fitzgerald a second time, citing the shared platform and engine lineup. “That’s a stretch,” Fitzgerald says. “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.”

Indeed, vehicles as distinct as the Audi A5 and Bentley Bentayga ride on variations of the same platform. But Hyundai and Kia, to be fair, are not Audi and Bentley. “It’s all about how you bring across to the customer that they don’t feel they are driving or seeing the same car,” Fitzgerald says.

And he’s right. So now, in America, Genesis must bring across to the G70 customer that the Genesis buying experience is superior to the Kia Stinger buying experience.

[Images: Hyundai, Kia Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.


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