New York Auto Show 2017: Genesis, Subaru, Toyota introduce SUV concepts

The 2017 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) introductions included key utility vehicle concepts from Genesis, Subaru and Toyota.

IHS Markit perspective

  • Significance: Genesis presented its concept for the new luxury brand's first utility vehicle, Subaru advanced its seven-seat SUV concept and Toyota introduced the FT-4X SUV concept, aimed at Generation-Y urbanites.
  • Implications: The concept vehicles at the 2017 show were in the form of SUVs, underscoring the continued dominance of utility vehicles. The Genesis GV concept previews that new premium brand's first SUV. Given the performance of luxury utility vehicles, the GV is critical to the brand's chances at gaining volume in the short term. The Subaru Ascent confirms the company's chosen name for an additive entry, and demonstrates the company's interior approach. The FT-4X is not confirmed for production, but could go up against similar entries expected over the next several years from Chevrolet and Ford, as well as the Jeep Wrangler.
  • Outlook: As well as highlighting that some automakers still have white space within their utility vehicle line-ups, each of these concepts has a specific significance to its brand and potential in the market. At this time, the Subaru and Genesis preview known upcoming production vehicles, while the Toyota truly explores a potential new road for the brand.

Three notable concept vehicles were introduced at the 2017 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS).

Genesis GV80

The Genesis GV80 previews the brand's first crossover utility vehicle (CUV). Hyundai launched the Genesis premium brand in 2016 to complement its standard offerings at the Hyundai brand, and enable the company to access some of the profit potential in the luxury space. The first two products were the G80 and G90 sedans, with a sport utility vehicle (SUV) planned from the beginning. The GV80 is demonstrated as a fuel-cell electric vehicle. Although Genesis did not provide any details on that powertrain's performance, the selection reinforced expectations that the brand will participate in offering electrified powertrains in the future (see United States: 10 May 2016: Genesis brand to add PHEV models - report).

2017 Genesis GV80 Concept
Images courtesy of Genesis USA

The GV80 will share a platform with the G80 sedan, making it a large mid-size crossover. Genesis says that the vehicle is a further development of its "Athletic Elegance" design direction. In a statement, the company said, "The GV80 Concept reveals precision details about a confidently evolved design language that provides subtle glimpses into the bold future of Genesis' design and product development." Along with a bold and elegant exterior form, the concept explores potential technologies for future products. The interior features a 22-inch curved display; it is set in the instrument panel and cascades into the driver's cluster. The OLED display presents information in two distinct zones to create a separate experience for the driver and passenger. The centre console integrates polished metal inlays that include capacitive touch capabilities; each metal string enables the passenger to see and control a specific feature set (navigation, entertainment, communication, climate) through a multiview on the right side of the display without disturbing the driver. The multi-function controller has a gorilla glass touchpad with handwriting recognition. The concept interior is sumptuously appointed, with leather-wrapped upper instrument panel, suede on the instrument panel bridge and ash wood trim as well as polished aluminium trim pieces. Although the interior has a different character from the Lincoln Navigator, a trend toward wide, horizontal interior design seems evident.One concept design element has side pillars constructed with a visible structural truss design, with a pattern suggested in other exterior elements as well, including the 23-inch wheels and the side sills.

Subaru Ascent

Subaru did not provide an exceptional amount of detail about this second concept preview of its upcoming three-row utility vehicle. The first concept was shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2016. This concept provides a more direct look at the vehicle's final production exterior, as well as providing insight into the form of interior Subaru is developing. Although this concept shows the interior and Subaru's Los Angeles concept did not, little is revealed about plans for technology and features in this vehicle. Subaru is re-entering the three-row SUV market after failing to get consumers interested in the B9 Tribeca, dropped in 2013.

Subaru did provide the dimensions for the concept, and with its overall length of 198.8 inches, width of 78.3 inches and wheelbase of 117 inches, the vehicle will compete with the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse, among others. Automotive News reports that Subaru expects the vehicle to appeal more to existing Subaru customers who want more room than to attract buyers of those vehicles, citing CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Subaru did confirm that the Ascent will take a new-generation boxer engine; be built at the company's plant in Indiana (US) on Subaru's New Generation architecture; and that it will be sold exclusively in North America.

2017 Subaru Ascent Concept
Images courtesy of Subaru

Toyota FT-4X

Toyota's FT-4X concept explores how to meet the demands of urban dwellers with the urge to get away at a moment's notice. In describing the vehicle, Toyota said, "From desktop to trailhead: Toyota FT-4X concept is a modern 4x4 toolbox for the most intrepid urbanites." FT-4X stands for Future Toyota-Four-wheel Drive Crossover, designed with the generation-Y generation in mind. "Millennials are fond of the outdoors, but operate almost always indoors. They enjoy venturing out into new neighborhoods and national parks, but hardly plan ahead," Toyota wrote, naming this demographic "casualcore adventurers". Designed by Toyota's studio in California, the FT-4X's design is called "Rugged Charm". Along with as functional and capable exterior, the concept offers interesting functionality. It uses Toyota's New Global Architecture C (TNGA-C) platform; while Toyota indicated it could be powered by the same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder in the C-HR, the concept itself is powertrain-neutral. The rear hatch can be opened either horizontally with Urban Mode or vertically in Outboard mode. Once open, the rear hatch offers several unique essential moves. The flexible and new storage solutions, including areas colour-coded to communicate whether they are designed for closed or open storage. Toyota's front area, the Clean Zone, is where people sit, with rugged floor mats. The Wet Zone, just behind the front seats, uses all-weather character materials. The Rear Cargo zone is created when the second row of seats is folded down and a flat floor is created, and it sports sleeping bags. Concept car parts that communicate the go-anywhere character include rear door handles that can serve as impromptu water bottles, USB ports in the arm rests, and a ceiling-mounted rear flashlight.

2017 Toyota FT-4X Concept
Images courtesy of Toyota

Outlook and implications

As well as highlighting that some automakers still have white space within their utility vehicle line-ups, each of these concepts has a specific significance to its brand and potential in the market. At this time, the Subaru and Genesis were previewing known upcoming production vehicles, while the Toyota truly explores a potential new road for the brand.

The Genesis brand is just beginning its life, and certainly needs to expand its product lineup. While launching with new generations of existing sedans was expedient, the market shift toward utility vehicles means that without such products available the brand will have difficulty reaching notable volume. IHS Markit forecasts the production GV80 will arrive in 2019; it will be followed by a GV70 which is likely to carry a very similar design language and technology development. Globally, we forecast the GV80 will see sales reach the 25,000 unit range in 2021 and beyond; the GV70 is expected to be smaller and less expensive. As such, after it arrives in 2021, we forecast it will see sales in the 38,000-unit range. We can also expect that Genesis will continue to introduce key concept vehicles at the New York auto show going forward. Speaking with Genesis head designer Luc Donckerwolke at the product reveal, he said that Genesis has decided using the New York show-and its typically heavy luxury orientation-provides an auto show background aligned with the brand's personality and market targets. In 2016, Genesis displayed its first brand concept.

IHS Markit forecasts US sales in the 60,000-unit range for the Subaru by 2020, and for the vehicle to have potential to be a success where the first B9 Tribeca was not. Subaru is enjoying a phenomenal run of 64 consecutive months of sales gains. An additive model has potential to help it maintain and expand its consistent sales records. The Ascent will also join the market when appetite for utility vehicles at any size has become a fact of life rather than a trend. The Ascent will arrive on the market into a competitive space with established players, and must find a way to get on shoppers' consideration lists. Beginning with loyal buyers is a sensible strategy. The concept shown in New York displays a very conventional take on the segment, with a Subaru feel. The Subaru Ascent looks to be as conservative as the new Volkswagen (VW) Atlas, another three-row trying to find a place against deeply established players and with a family buyer likely to land on the conservative side, relative to vehicle purchases.

The FT-4X is much more of a styling exercise than a specific product, with Toyota offering both reaction and viability to certain interior elements as well as to a new exterior design. Although Toyota is forecast to add a smaller B-segment vehicle US in 2020, the concept FT-4X is a segment larger. It is likely that we see some of the clever storage solutions and the new vehicle could echo design themes for the new product. More likely, this is an exploration from Toyota about whether to create an additional product.


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