CLOSING THE LOOP WITH ‘CIRCULAR’ INTERIOR MATERIALS

HWASEONG, Korea, Dec. 19, 2023 — When it comes to developing interior materials, Genesis prefers to think out of the box: recycled newspapers, residual wood from furniture manufacturing processes and PET bottles, to name a few. 


Taeksung Nam, head of the Genesis CMF (color, material and finish) Development Team, dreams of pushing boundaries even further. 


His vision is to create a “circular material system” in which materials are reprocessed from their initial or previous use, allowing them to take on a new form and continue their lifecycle. 


In a follow-up interview, Nam talks about his journey with Genesis interior materials and shares insights into the luxury auto brand’s future endeavors. 


What’s your team’s top priority in developing interior materials? 


How luxurious it looks. Back in the early years of Genesis, before we officially launched as [an independent] brand [in 2015], there were many people who thought our cars weren’t luxurious enough. And I think this was because we were focused on following the trend and what our competitors were putting out in the market. When I joined Genesis [as it became independent], I tried really hard to distance the brand from this stigma. As with the exterior, each model has a distinct style concept for its interior, so we talk a lot with our interior designers about colors and materials.

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Sounds like a lot of teamwork. 
 

Indeed. We don’t have a ton of designers here at Genesis — only about 30, counting both styling and CMF designers. That’s a few considering all the models we’ve put out. Our leaders prefer a close-knit team where collaboration is at its finest, and the plus side of working with a small group like this is that it makes communication more open. We can also easily handle different styling and color requests in this setup.

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How does Genesis approach quality control? 
 

Out of [the three brands] in the Hyundai Motor Group, Genesis has the toughest AQL [acceptable quality limit] standards. These standards are high even when compared to our global competitors, and I know this for a fact because that’s what our global contractors tell us. What this means for interior designers like me is that we face quite a few restrictions in our work. For instance, we might want to develop a soft chromatic color but can’t because it doesn’t tick the boxes for lightfastness or engineering specs. In the end, our goal is to develop long-lasting, luxurious materials while meeting our top-tier standards.

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Speaking of quality control, what was the most difficult interior material you developed so far? 
 

We were the first in our company [Hyundai Motor Group] to use real wood. When we introduced real wood to our Quality Management Department and factory for the first time, they struggled to grasp the concept and kept rejecting the material, citing our AQLs. Convincing my quality management colleagues was a tough task, as I had to emphasize the inherent variability in patterns among natural wood pieces. Looking back, it stands out as one of my most gratifying experiences.

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It must have been challenging setting a new quality standard for real wood. 
 

Back then, we were trying to incorporate real wood into cars with sales figures in the four digits, a notably smaller scale compared to the 200,000 to 300,000 units sold by other top brands for their most popular models. When we reached out to global wood suppliers, they were in disbelief that Hyundai was trying to use real wood. Some didn’t even know Hyundai at all and refused to show us their stock. But that didn’t stop me. I studied all the terminology and tried to come close looking like an expert. When I went back to the suppliers, they were shocked with my knowledge. They opened their entire storage for me, and I looked around for three whole hours. 

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What does the future hold for Genesis interior materials? 
 

These days, we think a lot about the value we want to deliver to our customers in the EV era. While our previous efforts focused on recyclable and sustainable materials, exemplified by features like the G90 newspaper wood garnish or headlining, and carpets made from recycled PET bottles, our future emphasis will predominantly center on “circular materials” — reusing materials to create a closed-loop system. 

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Are there any interior materials you personally want to develop? 
 

A lot of my wishes already came true, like real wood and aluminum. Our ongoing projects mostly remain confidential, but I will tell you this: Wood, aluminum and leather stand as iconic interior materials for luxury [vehicles]. As we look to the future and go through climate change, our objective is to phase out interior materials that directly contribute to the climate crisis. We ultimately want to reuse materials and offer our customers a valuable chance to positively impact the world environment.