The production version of Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.’s Concept Genesis show car likely will retain that name as its official moniker when it debuts at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January, Ward’s learns.

The luxury sedan currently is referred to internally by its BH codename.

“We’re aspiring to call the production car the Genesis but still clearing some legal hurdles,” a Hyundai insider in Seoul reveals. “Names are a big minefield.”

The production sedan may be joined in Detroit by the Genesis 2-door concept coupe shown at November’s Los Angeles auto show.

The Genesis will not be the Korean auto maker’s first rear-wheel-drive passenger car sold in North America, as has been widely reported, although it will be a first for the U.S.

Hyundai sold the Korean-made RWD Stellar CXL (Canada Export Limited) midsize sedan in Canada from 1984-1988. The Stellar was never sold in the U.S. due to stricter emissions requirements and was replaced in 1988 by the first-generation Hyundai Sonata.

Hyundai also exported the RWD Pony subcompact to Canada from 1984-1987. The first-year sales goal was a modest 5,000 units, but the Pony became a top-selling car there, achieving 50,000 sales annually, the auto maker says.

Hyundai next month will give journalists in South Korea a sneak peek at the new Genesis sedan by providing comparison test-drives against the BMW-5 Series and Mercedes E-Class at the Hyundai-Kia Design and Technology Research Center, where the Genesis and its engines were developed.

“The Genesis is our most important product of the decade,” a Hyundai spokesman says. “We’ll be making some headlines regarding the comparisons.”

The production Genesis will be equipped with a 3.8L V-6 engine, as the 4.6L V-8 will not be available until next year.

The luxury sedan will go on sale in South Korea Jan. 8 and essentially is the same vehicle to be sold in the U.S., except the U.S. version will have a more sophisticated suspension system, the spokesman says.

The U.S. sales launch is set for mid-2008.