Let there be light for Genesis

Genesis delivered big time with an extravagant debut of the G70 compact sport sedan.

HWASEONG, South Korea — Genesis, the world’s youngest luxury brand, may be weighed down by next-to-no name recognition. It may not have its own dealer network. And it may be struggling with a meager three-sedan lineup in a market hot and heavy for crossovers.

But the Hyundai spin-off is off to a good start, despite the headwinds.

A key first step for executives is distancing Genesis from its mass-market siblings, Hyundai and Kia. They delivered big time with an extravagant debut of the G70 compact sport sedan.

In a first-of-its-kind media blitz for the South Korean brand, Genesis invited dozens of overseas journalists to Seoul this month for two days of test drives and executive access.

To underscore its premium credentials, Genesis splurged on banquet space in a newly opened luxury hotel on the top floors of the highest building in all of Korea. To showcase the G70’s performance chops, it booked one of the few circuits near Seoul for a full day of track time.

The outlays and PR maneuvering were rare extravagances from a South Korean company known for its tight purse strings and obsession with efficiency over appearances.

The G70 didn’t disappoint.

The fetching design is accentuated by its planted stance and sporty proportions. Spirited driving and agile handling completed the package. The 3.3-liter V-6 generates around 365 hp and does 0 to 62.5 mph in 4.7 seconds, Genesis says.

The entry-level G70 won’t land in the U.S. until next spring.

But already, in less than two years since the brand’s launch in late 2015, Genesis has sold some 150,000 vehicles worldwide. And only with a two-car portfolio.

Sure, three in four were sold at home in South Korea. In the U.S., by contrast, Genesis notched sales of 13,366 units through August this year, aided by the arrival of the G90 flagship.

That may sound meager. But here are two more signs of a banner beginning.

First, the G80 sedan, the brand’s bread-and-butter product thus far, ranked seventh in midsize luxury sales in the first eight months of the year. That seems mediocre until you notice it was outsold by the likes of such heavyweights as the Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz E class and BMW 5 series. Almost miraculously, for a brand with no premium heritage, it managed to beat the Cadillac CTS, Lexus GS and Infiniti Q70.

Secondly, the newcomer snagged the No. 2 spot in this year’s J.D. Power new-vehicle appeal ranking — just behind top-slotted Porsche and ahead of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The next task for Genesis executives back in Seoul will be proving it’s not all beginner’s luck.