Hyundai appears to be considering entering the luxury crossover market to compete with the Lexus RX , Audi Q5 , and Cadillac SRX . That’s according to an interview Edmunds.com had recently with Hyundai CEO Dave Zuchowski.
However, Zuchowski says the main problem with creating a luxury SUV would be having a place to sell it. “We made a conscious decision on our premium products not to establish a secondary distribution channel,” he says. “And that decision, and we absolutely think it is the right decision, has some flow-through impact on products.”
So in other words, Hyundai doesn’t think a premium SUV or crossover would sell well within conventional Hyundai dealerships. The Korean automaker is already traveling down this bumpy road with its classy Genesis and Equus sedans, products that far exceed the Hyundai brand perception held by the general public. Hyundai does have that "dealership within a dealership" concept in use where the premium products are separated from the non-premium vehicles, but apparently the concept isn’t working well enough for it to add an SUV to the Genesis and Equus side of the showroom.
Regardless of the selling method, the SUV itself would likely be based on the seven-passenger Santa Fe . It would likely keep the same underpinnings and powertrain, but have completely unique styling and an interior that matched the luxuriousness of the all-new 2015 Genesis sedan.
Zuchowski and Hyundai appear to be stuck behind their decision to remain a singular brand and not create a secondary luxury label like Toyota’s Lexus or Nissan’s Infiniti . Zuchowski uses the example of Toyota and Lexus in selling mechanically similar products with different levels of refinement. "The RX is basically the Toyota Highlander and they can charge a premium for that vehicle because they are sold in different showrooms," Zuchowski says.
For now, Hyundai’s plans for rolling out a Lexus RX competitor are on hold, with Zuchowski implying that once a sales method has been reached, the automaker could move forward.
Note: Photo is of the Hyundai Intrado Concept
Click past the jump to read about the Hyundai Intrado Concept
Why It Matters
The RX is a hot seller for Lexus and Hyundai is no doubt looking to catch a piece of the market. Premium crossovers and SUVs in general are selling well these days, so Hyundai has to figure out how it can charge more for a made-over Santa Fe, while still selling it side-by-side with its down-market platform mate.
Remember Toyota has the advantage of a separate, decidedly more premium dealership network where brand image is far above that of the more pedestrian Toyota. Once Hyundai decides how to sell its premium SUV will likely be the day development starts on that new product.
Hyundai has already played with the idea of a premium crossover with the Intrado Concept. While its main feature is its fuel cell powertrain, the concept proves Hyundai can build a compelling crossover to compete with the current contenders like the RX and Q5.
The specs surrounding the Intrado Concept center around its fuel-saving methods such as its light-weight construction and its 36 kWh Li-ion battery. As it sits, the concept is said to have a 372-mile range and will only emit water from its tailpipe.
Pricing for the Intrado Concept won’t be established until the day it moves into production form, if ever.