Genesis GV80 Fuel Cell Concept: Going Up Against The Top Dogs

Genesis unveiled its GV80 Concept SUV at the 2017 New York International Auto Show. The GV80 represents several important statements of intent from Hyundai’s recently launched luxury brand. It sets out a design direction for the brand, it is the first Genesis SUV, and it shows Genesis’ thinking on future alternative power sources.

The GV80 As Styling Statement

Take a close look at the GV80 Concept. Now mentally replace the 23” wheels with a more appropriate size like 19”, make the perforated pillars solid, and insert conventional LED headlights. This will give you a good idea of what the production GV80 will look like. 

The front end has a bit of Bentley in it, which is not a bad thing. But the exterior of the GV80 breaks no new ground, which is unfortunate for a new luxury brand trying to make an impression on potential buyers. Will current Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus owners give it a second look?

Inside, the GV80 has a luxurious interior with quilted diamond-stitched leather covering the seats, the doors, and the console sides. The dash is wrapped in leather and suede, while the console is done in polished aluminum and ash wood. It is absolutely gorgeous  - and is unlikely to make it into production. The seats could possibly be a part of the top trim level.

The First SUV From Genesis

Equipped with a conventional gasoline engine, the production Genesis GV80 will be a mid-size SUV that will compete against the Lexus RX350, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Audi Q7. Just as these SUVs are top sellers in their lineups, the GV80 will be expected to do the same for the Genesis brand.

The GV80 should fit right into the segment. To get noticed among all this well-established competition, the new Genesis SUV will need to be a better-equipped vehicle and offer outstanding value. This was Lexus’ strategy back in 1989 when it entered our market, and it worked out very well.

Expect very competitive leasing rates as well, since this is how most of these luxury SUVs are purchased (for the brands mentioned above, percentage leased is between 50% and 58%).

The GV80 Concept Is Powered By A Fuel Cell

The GV80 is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV), placing this vehicle on the cutting edge of alternative power sources. A fuel cell works by converting hydrogen fuel into electricity, which then powers the vehicle through an electric motor. Parent Hyundai has years of FCV experience, with several hundred Tucson FCV SUVs currently running around the US. 

Making an FCV out of an upscale luxury vehicle is actually a good move. Many higher-income consumers are early adopters who are attracted to and will pay for alternative power sources, as shown by Tesla’s electric vehicle sales. While the vast majority of production GV80s will be conventionally powered, an FCV version will provide a green halo for the brand.

But FCVs have a problem. That is the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Outside of the northern and southern California metro areas, there simply are not enough hydrogen stations to make driving an FCV possible. Building out the system will take many years. This will keep a lid on sales, and will assure that most GV80s will be gasoline powered for the time being.

The GV80 Is Crucial For Genesis 

The production GV80 will be the third Genesis vehicle, following the G80 and G90 sedans into the showroom. It appears to be a solid entry in the important mid-size SUV segment. If it represents good value, and the Genesis customer experience is as good as that of its competitors, it should help the Genesis brand to grow in the US. Stay tuned!


About The Author

Stephen Fogel

Stephen follows the global automotive industry on a daily basis, including new model announcements, new technologies, sales trends, and the latest in "green" cars.