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First the Genesis sedan, then the Equus. Clearly, Hyundai is pinning its ears back and charging upmarket like Ndamukong Suh rushing Aaron Rodgers. And, like the rookie Husker-bred defensive end, the Korean automaker is making a rather successful transition to the next level. What's next? Quite possibly a sedan designed to compete directly with the benchmark entry-level luxury sedan, the BMW 3 Series. After that, Hyundai may craft a crossover to go up against the segment-defining Lexus RX CUV.

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Hyundai isn't nearly done refining the image of its top-level nameplates. Hyundai USA head John Krafcik told the WSJ in an interview that the automaker is actively considering whether it should break its premium models apart from the rest of its lineup, much in the same way Honda does with Acura, Toyota does with Lexus and Nissan does with Infiniti.

While this isn't exactly news, Krafcik's level of candor is. Three options are apparently on the table. First, an entire separate dealer network could be created to sell these Genesis-branded machines, but this would be very costly. Second (and reportedly most likely), a subset of the automaker's current set of dealers could add a section to their dealerships designed to cater specifically to upmarket clients – a showroom-within-a-showroom, if you like. They could even have their own dedicated employees. Lastly, Hyundai could stick with its current scheme of training at least one salesperson on the Genesis line, leaving the dealerships alone.

Whichever way Hyundai chooses to move, don't expect any hasty decisions. Krafcik says the company will keep a close eye on the success of its Equus sedan in the States before making any judgments on its dealer network. In the meantime, expect Hyundai to unveil a new global branding strategy at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show along with a slogan to replace the current "Drive Your Way" message.

One thing is clear: this decision will shape the way forward for Hyundai's continued performance in the United States. We're keenly interested in your take on the matter, and we know the automaker's execs are listening, too. What strategy should Hyundai adopt in its bid to move further upmarket? Make yourself heard in our informal poll below, as well as in Comments.


What strategy should Hyundai adopt in its bid to move further upmarket?
Status Quo – Continue selling all models under the Hyundai name as it does currently2461 (20.7%)
Create a sub-brand, possibly named Genesis, with a showroom-within-a-showroom concept4317 (36.3%)
Spin off a stand-alone premium brand with its own dealerships like Toyota has done with Lexus5114 (43.0%)

Related Gallery2011 Hyundai Equus: First Drive

Photos copyright ©2010 Damon Lavrinc / AOL

[Source: The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News – sub. req.]