Since the advent of big-money televised tournaments, luxury car franchises have been among golf’s most enthusiastic sponsors.
Hyundai Motor Co.’s new Genesis luxury car franchise perpetuates that connection in Los Angeles this weekend with the sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s golf tournament at historic Riviera Country Club.
DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 11: Genesis introduces the 2017 G90 at the North American International Auto Show on January 11, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Genesis is a luxury brand of The Hyundai Motor Company. The show is open to the public from January 16-24. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Genesis batwing logos adorn signs throughout the course. The company’s G80 and G90 sedans are displayed prominently and have been lent to golfers participating in the competition. A warm-up came a few weeks ago at the Farmer’s Insurance tournament in San Diego, where Genesis was the official car.
“It’s true to say that raising awareness of Genesis is one of our main goals,” said Erwin Raphael, general manager of the division. The models are highly rated against luxury competition – what they need now is prestige.
Several of the world’s top golfers, including Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were entered. A notable no-show is Tiger Woods, whose back troubles at a recent contest in Dubai rendered him unfit for play – a disappointment for Genesis since Tiger’s appearance always creates more interest and bigger crowds.
PACIFIC PALISADES, CA – FEBRUARY 16: Bill Haas plays his shot from the sixth tee during the first round at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 16, 2017 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Riviera was the site of Woods’s professional debut in 1992 – he missed the cut. The course also was the place that the legendary Ben Hogan made a comeback while recovering from a horrific traffic accident in 1949. Hogan tied Sam Snead in regulation play and lost in the playoff.
In this Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 photo, Tiger Woods reacts on hole 10th during the 1st round of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the Dubai Desert Classic with an apparent back injury after shooting an opening-round 5-over 77. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Golf may be considered an elite sport, played on pricey real estate by people who can afford the leisure time to devote hours to a round at their favorite course. But the sport also is trying to reposition itself a more accessible to people of more modest means. Hyundai, conversely, is a brand for the masses – while Genesis aspires to crack a market dominated by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Lincoln and Lexus.
Among Genesis’s guests for the weekend were its top franchised dealers in the U.S. Their commitment to invest in separate showrooms and maintenance facilities eventually could play an important role in Genesis’s acceptance as a true luxury brand.
For several years, Hyundai dealerships have been selling Genesis models – but that is set to change with a new dealer agreement that will reduce the number of authorized Genesis dealers and require them to build new showrooms.
For the time being, Raphael said, “our goal is to be the experience a great one for our customers” by providing a valet service that will pick up and deliver cars at home or office – circumventing any need to visit a Hyundai dealership.
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