July 13, 2024

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Text and photos by Cor Steenstra

The 2011 Hyundai Equus is translating Hyundai’s new found sense of style into the upper segment, firmly targeting the Lexus LS series. Admittedly, the Lexus LS has been around for a few years in the current guise, but it is still a formidable player in this segment. The Hyundai Equus, in our opinion, is clearly a much more modern design, fits at the top of the Hyundai range, but is just not quite there yet in comparison to the high bar set by Lexus.

The Lexus LS compares easily with Mercedes and BMW, beats them in quality, but has to acknowledge it is neither Mercedes nor BMW when image is concerned. That has been our consistent criticism of Lexus, the lack of a significant and unique brand identity. It might be that not everyone cares about that, but the audience they are targeting is clearly the Mercedes and BMW crowd, and they very much DO care about brand identity.

In that same line of thought, Hyundai with both the Genesis and this Equus, does a great job at producing high quality offerings in a very competitive and demanding niche, and it is admittedly very hard to carve out a unique and recognizable brand identity without immediately becoming a carbon copy or a cheap rip off of a Mercedes or BMW identity. But it is doable. Look at how careful BMW is setting up its i-line, carefully crafting a very different design language, yet remaining within the BMW identity. Mercedes has very skillfully, most of the time, evolved its identity even in going down market.

Why is this so difficult? Time! To develop a unique and outstanding brand identity isn’t done by evaluating a few sketches and then just banging it out, much like Honda did to the recent Acura offerings. That way you fall flat on your face, as again proven by that same recent Acura offerings. It take some serious time, some trial and error. Quality for quantity! And that is something Asian brands seem unable to understand. They want instant gratification. Well, if you insist on that, this is what you get, something good, but not something better!

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