Aiming at the top end of the market, Hyundai Motor Group plans to strengthen its lineup with two new luxury SUVs, the Genesis GV80 and Genesis GV70.

It will also expand the geographic reach of the overall Genesis brands, the group’s luxury marque.

The Genesis has been struggling in competition with rivals in the US market as it lacks an SUV. Now the Genesis portfolio consists of only three sedans: the G70, G80 and G90.

Late this year, the group plans to release its first luxury SUV, the Genesis GV80, an industry expert told Asia Times. The model is designed to compete with the Mercedes Benz GLE, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Lexus RX350.

The GV80, which shares its rear-wheel-drive platform with the G80 sedan, will come with an optional four-wheel-drive system and three possible engine options, including diesel. The price point is expected to be lower than German and Japanese rivals, at about 60 million won (US$50,492) in South Korea and $40,000 in the US market, according to local media reports.

Following the GV80, the expert told Asia Times,  Hyundai will launch the smaller luxury Genesis SUV GV70 late next year at the earliest. That model will share its platform with the G70 sedan and will take on competitors including the Mercedes Benz GLC, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Lexus NX300.

Both the GV80 and GV70 will come with advanced automatic driving technologies like the ones already included in Teslas and Mercedes, which ease lane changes and highway entries.

The Genesis brand is sold in South Korea, Canada, the Middle East, Russia and the US. An industry insider told Asia Times that Hyundai also plans to launch it in China followed by Europe.

However, no details on timing, volumes or strategy were forthcoming.

Along with the Genesis SUVs, Hyundai and its affiliate Kia will launch new volume-market SUVs – all new versions of the Tucson, Sorento, and Sportage – next year.

Improved products, profits

The new models are being rolled out as Hyundai reinforces its SUV lineup to improve its product mix.

The mid-size Hyundai Palisade and compact Hyundai Venue were both launched this year. Under the Kia badge, it has released its mid-size Telluride, which shares its platform with the Palisade, in the US, and face-lifted Mojave and all-new small SUV Seltos in Korea.

This improved product mix looks to have upgraded the group’s profitability, despite an overall slump in car sales.

Hyundai Motor posted 2.06 trillion won of operating profit in the first quarter this year, up 8.1% from the same period of last year. Its revenue rose by 8.1% on year to a record high 50.95 trillion won.

These improved first-half earnings came amid an overall fall in vehicle sales: Hyundai’s car sales in the first half recorded 212.6293 million – a 5.1% drop from the same quarter of last year.

Hyundai Motor cited three issues for the solid results: The increased lineup of SUVs, the launch of the latest model of its best-selling sedan, the Sonata, and a weak won, which has boosted exports.

Industry analysts expect Hyundai Motor Group’s earnings to continue to improve through this year, citing an agreement reached on a wage deal with its notoriously militant union. The group avoided a strike this year – an event that hammers the group’s productivity on almost an annual basis – thanks to that deal.

“Both Hyundai and Kia are expected to post earnings better than market consensus thanks to better product mix and the new car effect as well as the weak won,” said Lee Han-joon, an auto analyst at KTB Investment and Securities.

He forecast Hyundai’s operating profit would record 1.1-2 trillion won in the third quarter and 4.5 trillion won this year, higher than the market consensus of 1 trillion won and 4.2 trillion won, respectively.