Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO – The ’10 Genesis Coupe is priced to sell, but Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. may face a tough time convincing economically stressed consumers they really need a sporty 2-door car geared more towards speed and performance than comfort and convenience.

“That can be tricky,” acknowledges Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik following the Chicago Auto Show debut of the Coupe’s R-Spec track version aimed at the tuner crowd. Conventional models of the new vehicle go on sale at dealerships later this month.

Coupes often are “discretionary purchases” and their sales can suffer ill effects of a recession more acutely than mainstream vehicles, Krafcik tells journalists.

“We’re being cautious,” he says, declining to share sales estimates. “We think the industry will start seeing a rebound in the third quarter.” If segments such as coupes feel the pain of bad times more, conversely, “they tend to do better in a rebound situation,” Krafcik says.

Hyundai at the show announces pricing for the Genesis Coupe, which will base at $22,000 with a 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0L, 4-cyl. engine and sticker at $25,000 for a more upscale model with a 306-hp 3.8L V-6.

“We call that power to the people,” Krafcik says. “The Genesis Coupe has the pricing and performance to appeal to a lot of buyers.”

Hyundai is zeroing in on two different demographic sets. One consists of a younger crowd, ages 18 to 29, that is drawn to cars that look sleek and go fast. The other segment is comprised of older buyers in their 40s and 50s, who are looking to “reward” themselves with a special vehicle purchase.

Hyundai research shows “a huge market” for an affordable, sporty 2-door rear-wheel-drive car “that isn’t a (Ford) Mustang,” Krafcik says.

There are no plans for a diesel-powered Genesis Coupe. “We looked at diesel every which way but couldn’t make it viable,” he says. “The average diesel costs twice as much as a conventional engine.”

As Ward’s first reported last year, Hyundai is due to bring a smaller, entry-level coupe to the U.S. market in the coming years, based on the Veloster concept unveiled at last spring’s Seoul auto show.

The coupe version of the Genesis follows the launch of the more sedate sedan, winner of the North American Car of the Year at last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“If the sedan is Dr. Jekyll, the coupe is the alter ego, a Mr. Hyde that is more excitable,” Krafcik says, referring to the 19th century Robert Louis Stevenson story of a man with two personas.

When a journalist notes Mr. Hyde was a murderer, Krafcik quips, “Don’t take the sinister thing too far.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com