Hyundai taps Raphael as first Genesis brand chief

Erwin Raphael, who worked as a factory manager for Chrysler and Toyota earlier in his career, joined HMA in 2010.

SAN FRANCISCO — Hyundai Motor Co., now entering the final stages of its plan to launch the Genesis luxury brand this summer, said it tapped Erwin Raphael as Genesis’ first general manager in the U.S.

Raphael, 49, who now leads Hyundai Motor America’s key Western sales region, will manage the summer launch of the Genesis G90, which replaces the Hyundai Equus flagship sedan. It will be closely followed by a lightly updated version of the Hyundai Genesis, renamed the Genesis G80 for model year 2017.

Raphael will assume the new position March 1, the automaker said in a statement Tuesday.

Dave Zuchowski, CEO of HMA, described the position as critical. In the statement, he said Raphael’s “product knowledge, broad dealer experience and skill at flawless execution” will be tested in launching the brand.

Rather than awarding franchises for standalone Genesis dealerships, Hyundai has crafted a plan for a hybrid retail strategy that uses existing Hyundai dealerships for at least the next few years. Each of Hyundai’s 830 U.S. dealerships will be permitted to sell the Genesis G80 until its next full redesign, while the 405 dealerships with covenants to sell the top-of-the-line Equus will also be allowed to sell the G90.

Hyundai plans to grow the Genesis lineup to six models by 2020. One of Raphael’s main responsibilities will be managing a dealer network through facility upgrades — either showrooms within existing dealerships or new standalone showrooms.

Zuchowski told Automotive News in January that he aims to sell 90,000 Genesis-brand vehicles annually in the United States by 2020. He said he sees 325 dealers as the ideal number, with the ranks thinning as the covenant for selling luxury cars grows stricter.

Raphael, who worked as a factory manager for Chrysler and Toyota earlier in his career, joined HMA in 2010. He started with the company as director of engineering and quality before moving to the sales operation in 2014.

With Raphael’s elevation to Genesis chief, HMA promoted Kimberly Walker, the company’s director of retail process and sales satisfaction, to general manager of the western region, which includes 165 dealerships in 12 states.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.


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