While Hyundai owns a controlling interest in Kia and they share a significant amount of technology, they still operate as somewhat independent companies. For that reason, Kia needs a luxury brand to match.
Hyundai officially launched its Genesis luxury brand in the US in 2016 with the G90, the replacement for the Hyundai Equus. Since then, Genesis has rapidly evolved into a true luxury automaker with three sedans and 3 SUVs. My recent drives in Genesis vehicles gave me the impression that Genesis is Hyundai’s torpedoes to the Mercedes-Benz’s Bismark. With its sumptuous ride, coddling interior, and robust engines, Genesis proves this. But as fantastic a job as Genesis has done with its lineup; it won’t appeal to everyone. On the scale of luxury, Genesis is clearly towards the chic comfort end of the spectrum. There is a whole other end of the spectrum that is more about sport and activity that the Hyundai could cover as well.
This is where Kia comes in. While Genesis focuses on comfort, Kia should form a luxury brand to cover the BMW / Jaguar / Land Rover side of things. While Kia is moving up in the world, like Volkswagen, they will never be considered a luxury brand while a Soul full of hamsters is sitting in their showrooms. Kia needs to photocopy Genesis’ playbook from 2016 and build a luxury brand of their own that focuses on sportiness. Let’s call the brand KLB for now.
KLB can start by poaching the Stinger and moving the styling and materials upmarket to compete with the BMW 3-Series. Create a new, rugged and luxurious version of the Kia Borrego / Mohave, the rear-wheel-drive SUV that left the US after 2009 but is still in production in other markets, to take on the likes of the Land Rover Discovery/Defender and Lexus GX. After that, share platforms with Genesis but with an outdoorsy (for the SUVs) and sporty (for the sedans) will fill out the rest of the lineup. Where a Genesis SUV is curvy, the KLB should be boxy.
Where a Genesis sedan is soft, a KLB sedan should be firm. Beyond those styling and materials differences, the Genesis powertrain lineup could carry over unchanged. Genesis plans to make a big push into electrification in the next few years, and so does Land Rover. Giving KLB an electrified competitor to the Defender and 5-series would gain customers for the Hyundai group that might otherwise look elsewhere.
Do we really need another luxury brand? Some may say no, but I say if anyone is going to do it, it should be Kia.