Hyundai has joined the luxury brand spinoff club pioneered by Toyota with Lexus, Nissan with Infiniti and Honda with Acura.
Hyundai unveiled its G90 premium luxury sedan for the U.S. market under its new Genesis brand at the Detroit auto show, a catch-up strategy for the once entry-level automaker amid growing demand for premium vehicles.
The start-up brand with two sedans revealed on Monday marks a maturation for the South Korea's largest automaker and a major player in the U.S. Hyundai entered the U.S. market in the 1980s somewhat shakily with a reputation for cheap prices and poor quality.
But the automaker has emerged in recent years with a more complete lineup, improved reliability and relatively solid sales for its first luxury products that debuted less than a decade ago.
"It was our first attempt at luxury," David Zuchowski, Hyundai's U.S. chief executive, said in an interview.
He said it was more important in the early years for Hyundai to roll out its luxury vehicles - a Genesis, the Equus, then second generation Genesis - slowly to build up consumer demand and close the perception gap among some buyers who believed that Hyundai could not compete with proven brands such as Toyota's Lexus.
Luxury cars make up about one of every 10 light vehicles sold globally. But their design trends and technology advances often serve as the leading edge for the industry's mainstream products.
Lexus, for example, has thrived as an independent brand born from Toyota. But Ford's Lincoln and General Motors's Cadillac have struggled more in recent years to attract new and younger buyers.
Some ultra-high-end automakers are even sitting out the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but a number of more affordable premium automakers peeled back the covers on new models in Detroit.
"I think we're going to see a lot of luxury at this show," Karl Brauer, senior director of insights and senior editor for Kelley Blue Book, an automotive research firm, said of the Detroit show. "New York used to wear that mantle, so it's an example of the fact that shows don't have themes they way they used to."
At the Detroit auto show starting Monday, Mercedes introduced a new E class sedan, Lexus unveiled a new sports coupe and BMW rolled out several performance models among other luxury offerings.