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Erwin Raphael

The general manager of Genesis speaks with Robb Report’s Laura Burstein about the brand’s origin and its plans for the future.

How did the idea for making Genesis a separate brand come about?

When the Genesis model launched in 2008—before I was with Hyundai—there was a lot of inside push to make it a separate brand. But there wasn’t the confidence that Hyundai could command the kind of attention it required to succeed. We finally made the decision last year. [Genesis launched in November 2015.] We weren’t sure that it would happen, but it was kind of like the presidential election: You’re not sure who’s going to be the next president, but you prepare to be elected, because when you do take office, you’d better hit the ground running.

How many models will Genesis offer?

We will have six models by 2021. Along with the G90 and the G80, we will add a midsize luxury SUV and a near-luxury sedan, SUV, and sport coupe.

Genesis has an all-star design team, including Luc Donckerwolke and SangYup Lee, formerly of Bentley. Why did the brand invest so heavily in the design department?

We made the decision on day 1 that design is what we are after; it was going to be our core competency—performance is a close second. When you do that, you start by designing a car with fundamental proportions: front engine, rear-wheel drive. These aren’t afterthoughts. Some companies are accountant driven, some are manufacturing driven, and some are about optimizing engineering or performance. All of these attributes are important, but design is our kingpin.

How many cars do you plan to sell?

I think that’s the wrong thing to focus on. I’m more interested in building the recognition of the brand, the value of the brand, the equity, the perception. That’s what’s important. When we do that, the sales will come.