What is Genesis?
If you can’t answer that question beyond the biblical sense, don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Searches for both that phrase and the word “Genesis” spiked this week after it was reported that Tiger Woods was seriously injured after rolling a Genesis GV80 SUV off of a California road early on Tuesday.
It’s not that surprising. The Hyundai-owned automaker only introduced its first vehicle as a standalone brand in 2017 after previously using the name on a luxury Hyundai model since 2009.
Annual sales for the brand broke 21,000 in 2019 before dropping to just over 16,000 during the pandemic-stricken 2020, so it’s still a relatively small player in the industry. But the accolades have been rolling in.
The Genesis G70 sedan was named North American Car of the Year in 2019 and it had two finalists for the 2021 awards, including the GV80 which was up for the Utility Vehicle of The Year honor and has a starting price of $49,925. The brand also topped the J.D. Power dependability study in 2020 before dropping to seventh on the list this year.
Woods was driving the vehicle on loan from Genesis, which had sponsored a tournament at the Rivera Country Club last week that he had hosted. Google Trends data shows that searches increased on both Saturday and Sunday during the event, which is exactly what a company hopes for from that sort of investment, but went through the roof on Tuesday when news of Woods accident broke.
Smaller spikes followed on Wednesday and Thursday as developments in the story continued to unfold, with images of the wrecked vehicle atop many of them. It’s definitely not how Genesis planned for the world to be introduced to its first SUV, which was off to a good start and its best-selling model in January but was it entirely a bad thing?
“On the surface, there is definitely a benefit to Genesis, a brand with relatively low awareness,” Marcus Collins, Lecturer of Marketing at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business told FOX Business.
The issue, according to Collins, is the association people are making with it.
“Some people may see it as a proof point to whatever perception they have of Hyundai, the parent brand,” Collins said. “Some may see the brand as safe considering he survived such a horrible wreck, while others may see the brand as a non-factor in the situation altogether.”
Woods suffered serious leg injuries that required operations, but first responders said he was lucky to be alive, based on their experience with similar accidents. The GV80 does not have an NHTSA or IIHS crash test rating yet, but the vehicle is equipped with 10 airbags including one for the driver’s knees and another between the front seats to keep passengers from banging into each other. The 15-time major golf tournament winner was alone in the vehicle during the crash, which has been preliminarily attributed to careless driving on a road that’s known by locals to be dangerous, not a vehicle failure.
Collins said only time will tell how the incident affects consumer perception of Genesis and its success.
“We’ll only truly know by observing the social discourse around the brand and, of course, how this might impact consumption overtime.”