Erwin Raphael, Genesis Motor America’s Chief Operating Officer is ready to take the brand to the next level
Erwin Raphael is a dynamic man. The newly minted Chief Operation Officer for new car sensation Genesis, is poised to position the brand among the leaders in the luxury market. We caught up with Mr. Raphael at the Genesis Open golf tournament at the famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where the automotive maker is the title sponsor for the 3rd year in a row.
Thanks for much for inviting us here at Riviera, it’s truly a privilege to be here!
You are so very welcome. You are now a part of the Genesis family.
We’ve been privileged to drive the G70 a few weeks ago, and I must tell you that we were absolutely surprised at how great a car it is. It’s redefining luxury, isn’t it?
Thank you. We’re very very proud of it. It’s obviously a product of a lot of hard work by a lot of people and so we’re really glad that the public and the media have received the car as well as they have.
The American market is very particular about its cars, especially those in the luxury category, which has been dominated by brands such as Mercedes and BMW. Where is Genesis in that equation?
We’ve taken the position that it’s not about competing with any other brands. We know that there are lots of good cars out there. [Thank God], there are lots of good cars out there because it keeps us motivated every day. We are very fortunate that we have some really smart people out there coming up with some great ideas for us. It’s about imagining what the customer would want at some point in the future and being able to deliver that better than anybody else. We don’t benchmark to see what somebody else is doing. We believe in being audacious with our goals and setting those in a way that no one thought of before, and I must say, so far so good.
You’ve been a part of the automotive industry for more than 25 years, and with this new position with Genesis, it feels like you are running the company as a startup. Is this an accurate assessment?
Absolutely. It is a startup! We had to think about who was going to be when we grew up, and what was our brand all about. It’s an essential part of our DNA, and it is in everything we do, from hiring to design and production, and from to purchasing and distribution. This was a brand new operation from the ground up, even by establishing our network of dealers, which we were successful doing so in nine short months for every single state. We have an entrepreneurial spirit. We don’t have the luxury of having a cast of thousands, so we are very flexible and agile, and it has allowed us to leverage our talent and ideas and create the kind of car company that we believe is the future of the industry.
You’ve come out very strongly with the new G70. What was your strategy to introduce the car to the market?
We were very gratified to receive Motor Trend’s prestigious North American Car of the Year award right out of the gate, which was the first time any car has ever accomplish this upon its launch. It was a product of hard work, creativity, and ingenuity. Finally, the idea of diversity was also very important to us, as hundreds, maybe thousands of people worked together to bring this car to life. We’ve designed this car to be a perfect marriage of design performance, aesthetics, and comfort, which is helping us redefine the luxury market at a price point that offers maximum value.
Speaking of value, what comes first, design or performance?
It’s a great question. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think, you know, we tend to lead with design, but we don’t compromise on performance because there’s no need to compromise if you get it right the first time. The right style, the right lines, the right materials, everything is centered around the attention to detail. There is no reason why the car shouldn’t be able to perform well in every way, and I don’t mean just the driving in the handling. This thing’s a beast, it’s amazing on the road. But performance is also about the technology that’s in the car. The stereo sounds like you are in a studio. All the details are been carefully curated to maximize your driving experience. So this is why I say that there are no needs to compromise. Whether we are looking at a hidden speaker, or the front grill, design, and details matter.
I’ve asked you before about Genesis and electric energy, and while you seemed enthusiastic, you were cautious about making any sort of statements regarding the topic. Care to elaborate?
I believe that every car manufacturer has the mandate to go towards electric vehicles (or some form of alternative energy), we will do so as well, and I know that it will define what the future is going to be. What’s Genesis position? I am absolutely positive that there will be some form of electrification for us. A lot of people placing bets on exactly what that will look like. We aren’t necessarily betting on one or another but you can look forward to some form of alternative energy vehicle, which could be a hybrid plug-in, solely electric, and/or hydrogen fuel cell. There are lots of different technologies out there, and we will explore them, while creating the best options for our customers. We also know that environmental regulations will drive a lot of the change in technology, and our customers want to know that we are being responsible, and concerned with the sustainability of this planet.
It seems that most car manufacturers are concerned about the Asian market, China particularly. How important is the North American market for Genesis?
It is vital. So goes our car sales in the US, so goes the company. Because we’ve established a critical consumer base in the US, we are being recognized all over the world. Having a strong US presence gives us instant credibility and authenticity.
Switching gears for a moment. You’ve spent a lot of your formative years in the military, how has this influenced your leadership style?
It has a profound impact on it. I’ve spent 8 years in the Army, and it provided me with a lot of the ethos that I still carry with me to this day. Our veterans understand the concept of commitment, and I’d like to think that it is also present at Genesis. Just like the military, we have a tremendously diversified workforce, who have learned to care for one another and put our common objectives at the forefront of what we do every day. They also understand that execution failure is not an option. It is my responsibility to impart my own sense of commitment to not only my executive team but for the entire company as well.
This is officially your third year as the title sponsor for the Genesis Open, how important is this commitment?
It is tremendously important. Genesis as a company is only three years old. Even in our first year, we understood that in order to capture our own share of the marketplace, we needed to do something different. So, in our first year as a company, we committed to the PGA Tour, even before we started to sell cars. We need to be an integral part of the community, and the Genesis Open is the perfect opportunity for us to accomplish this. I think that the relationship people have with golf is unique among all professional sports. The fans have the opportunity to interact with the players, which is really singular to golf. People all over the US are learning about Genesis because of our involvement in the tournament. We’ve made a 10-year commitment to the tournament, so this has been and continues to be, a sizable financial investment for our company. So far, the return has been worth the investment and more.
What’s a Nobleman?
Is somebody who understands, and takes pride in himself, and wants to get out and share of himself with others.