With the appointment of Mark Del Rosso as head of Genesis' North American operations, Hyundai Motor Co. COO Jose Munoz has filled a key position on his leadership team with a veteran who brings experience from Lexus, Bentley and Audi.
Del Rosso will become CEO of Genesis Motors North America, effective Oct. 21, reporting to Munoz. He will also report to Hyundai's global headquarters in Seoul.
Erwin Raphael, who has been leading Genesis, will remain COO of Genesis Motor America. He will be in charge of Genesis strategy and operations in the U.S., including sales and marketing, and will report to Del Rosso.
Del Rosso joins Genesis as the brand recovers from a rocky start. His task: Build on the luxury brand's sales momentum as it continues to rebuild its dealer network and prepares to enter the hypercompetitive crossover market.
"Though Genesis is the youngest luxury automotive brand in the industry, having separated from parent Hyundai less than four years ago, it has been quickly gaining traction," Munoz said in a statement last week. "Given Mark's overall proven track record and extensive experience leading luxury brands, I'm thoroughly confident that Genesis Motors North America will be positioned to accelerate its growth and climb the ladder of luxury automotive brands to the top."
Compared with the established luxury brands, Genesis is a low-volume player, commanding 1 percent of the U.S. luxury market. However, armed with a lineup of just three sedans, its U.S. sales are up 67 percent to 14,909 vehicles through the first nine months of the year.
Part of that increase is attributable to the fact that Genesis is rebuilding its dealership network. In Genesis' early days, Hyundai dealerships could sell and service the luxury vehicles. But Genesis wanted to offer a luxury experience to customers, so standalone stores were required. Many dealers bowed out, and the number dropped nearly in half last year.
But the network is recovering quickly. At the beginning of 2019, Genesis had 178 U.S. franchises, according to Automotive News' annual dealership census. It currently has 355.
Genesis in 2018 added the G70 in the U.S. The compact sport sedan was named 2019 North American Car of the Year. It competes with the likes of the segment-leading Mercedes C class, BMW 3 series and Audi A4. Through September, Genesis has sold 8,506 G70s, which account for about 57 percent of the brand's volume. The G70 has so far this year outsold the competing Mercedes CLA, BMW 2 series, Audi A3, Infiniti Q40/Q60 and Lexus RC.
However, Genesis is swimming upstream in a slowing market. Total U.S. luxury-vehicle sales slipped 1.5 percent through September, according to the Automotive News Data Center. And its first crossover, the GV80, enters an already-crowded field when it debuts next year. The smaller GV70, which shares a platform with the G70, is expected in 2021.
Del Rosso in May stepped down from Audi of America less than six months after he became its president. At the time, Audi would not elaborate on the reason for his departure. He previously headed Bentley's Americas division and spent nine years as COO of Audi of America.
During Del Rosso's tenure as COO, the company recorded seven consecutive years of record volume. The brand saw 107 consecutive months of U.S. sales gains in a streak that ended in September last year. At the time, Audi said he strengthened the financial health of the dealer network and managed profitable growth to ensure greater franchise value.
Before joining Audi, Del Rosso spent 17 years with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Among his colleagues there: Brian Smith, now COO of Hyundai Motor America, and Michael O'Brien, a Hyundai vice president in charge of product planning.