Meet the Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision: A Digital-Only Drive

If you’re not part of the global travelling circus that is the international auto show circuit, you may not know that new cars are typically unveiled at drab industry trade shows. It’s not all glitz, like the Goodwood Festival of Speed or Monterey Car Week. But, wherever these launches take place, there’s always one common denominator: the attendees are all “car people.”

However, when Genesis revealed its new jaw-dropping concept late last year in Barcelona, that wasn’t the case at all. For in attendance at this particular launch were mostly hard-core gamers. And that’s because the car was unveiled at the Gran Turismo World Series Finals. It’s the sort of video-game tournament you might have once held in your friend’s basement, but on a global scale. The best virtual racers in the world were in the audience, having travelled to Spain to settle who amongst them was the best player of the racing simulation game.

Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision

The game itself, Gran Turismo, first hit Sony’s inaugural PlayStation console in 1997, and has gone on to sell more than 90 million copies around the world. That’s incredibly good going — and a 27-year-long track record few other franchises can claim to match. As far as the entertainment world goes, the game is a cultural juggernaut.

“Gran Turismo means everything to my generation,” says Chris Ha, senior manager of interiors at Genesis Design. “The first Gran Turismo came out during my childhood and, looking back, it was probably one of the most pivotal moments in cementing my journey to becoming a car designer.”

So it was a full-circle moment for Ha when Genesis arrived at the Gran Turismo World Series Finals to whip the sheet off the brand’s latest concept, the Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision. But here’s the thing: while the crowd of gamers may have whistled and hollered as the physical model was revealed, this car will never be made. In fact, the non-running, full-scale model was created purely for publicity, and the closest you’ll come to driving one will be when you’re sitting on your own couch. Why? Because this latest Genesis was designed explicitly and exclusively for the Gran Turismo game.

Welcome, then, to the bizarre world of brands attempting to sell real cars in the digital world. The Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision may be trapped in the virtual realm, but the hope is that it’ll eventually inspire gamers (when they’re old enough to get their driver’s licences) to consider buying a Genesis in real life. It’s a long-term play, one more about building brand loyalty than it is about boosting short-term sales.

Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision

If that sounds odd to you, it shouldn’t. In-game marketing of real-world products is big business and it’s not just car manufacturers doing it, either. Consider all the brands and individuals who have collaborated with the phenomenon that is Fortnite: Marvel, Air Jordan, Star Wars, Balenciaga, Nike, Moncler, Lady Gaga, Lewis Hamilton, and both the NFL and NBA. Brands know that these games attract eyeballs. And the video game industry as a whole was valued at $254 billion USD in 2022. It’s projected to hit almost $1 trillion by 2032, according to research by market data consultants Spherical Insights. So why wouldn’t brands be investing?

This also explains why Genesis put as much care and thought into the design of the X Gran Berlinetta as the automaker would a real car. That, and it gave the designers a chance to really flex their creative muscles.

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“The entire silhouette of the vehicle was designed with aerodynamics in mind,” said Tony Chen, exterior manager at Genesis Design. “Working with [Genesis] engineers, they really challenged every curve, every radius on the vehicle so that it performs at its highest. The vehicle is engineered to cut through the air and be very streamlined.”

Such considerations stand testament to how seriously the designers took this assignment, given that there is no air in a virtual world, so the laws of physics could have been manipulated or, technically, ignored altogether. And yet, in some ways, creating a car solely for digital use was more challenging for the Genesis team.

“[The mission] is really to capture future audiences and educate them on how to love cars.”

Tony Chen, exterior manager at Genesis Design.

“It’s pretty intense,” says John Krsteski, senior chief designer for Genesis North America, “because you’ve got a blank sheet of paper, which is oftentimes a little bit more difficult; it’s too much choice. We really wanted to capture a level of realism with this, so we made sure we put the same level of intensity, and the level of precision, into the design that we would with our production cars.”

The Genesis team used real-world design cues to inform the X Gran Berlinetta concept. The front end, for example, was inspired by the brand’s wing badge. The overall silhouette, complete with flowing lines, long hood, and rearward cabin, was inspired by beautiful prototype race cars of the 1960s and ’70s. Krsteski first noticed these ideas in sketches made by his designers, who would doodle “Vision Gran Turismo” cars in their spare time. “When you realize there’s that kind of passion happening unofficially on a project,” he says, “we thought: it’s time to make this official.”

Genesis X Gran Berlinetta Vision

The Vision Gran Turismo project officially started more than a decade ago, when Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi asked manufacturers: “Would you design your rendition of the ideal GT for us?” And Genesis is far from the first brand to heed the call. The first Vision GT was unveiled by Mercedes-Benz in 2013, and has since been followed with models from Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche, Aston Martin, Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, McLaren, and BMW. Coachbuilders including Zagato and Italdesign have even contributed cars of their own design. And, more recently, jewellery and watch brand Bvlgari dipped its toe into the automotive world, rolling out the Bvlgari Aluminium Vision Gran Turismo for the game.

But, despite all of the incredible design work and futuristic flourishes of these digital cars, the goal is bigger than the models themselves. “[The mission] is really to capture future audiences,” says Chen, “and educate them on how to love cars.” Or, in other words: get ’em while they’re young.