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Nice read by columist and blogger Chris Amos of the DC Auto Examiner and Nextgenautos.com.
Read the original here:
DC Auto Examiner: Why Hyundai still fights for respect
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Why Hyundai still fights for respect

Last week, I covered NADAguides announcement of its 2008 Top 5 luxury cars . Among the laureates was the new Hyundai Genesis, the Korean automaker’s first foray into the near-luxury market. I received an email today from NADAguides Road Test Editor Jeff Glucker , thanking me for my coverage, but indicating that he “got some pretty strong reactions” for including the Genesis on their list. Not a surprise. Bringing a brand new model into this list was a bold move made even more so by the fact that it’s a Hyundai.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Like many late model Hyundais, the Genesis borrows several styling cues from other, shall we say better known vehicles. Strip the badges off many Hyundais, and people will have no idea what you’re driving. The second generation Sonata looked a lot like a Jaguar X-Type and the current version smacks of the previous generation Honda Accord. The Veracruz Crossover SUV has just a bit of Lexus RX DNA. And the Genesis? Take a Mercedes S-class, BMW 7-series and Lexus GS, toss them in a blender and look at what comes out. No matter what vehicle(s) the Genesis favors, one thing is certain, it’s a great looking, feature-loaded car that’s received rave reviews across the automotive community. Considering its price point, which falls anywhere from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars or more under its competitors, the Genesis is opening some eyes. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether it will open minds and wallets as well.


When Excels roamed the Earth

Rewind 20 years when Hyundai was a relative unknown in the U.S. auto market. Domestic carmakers were churning out inferior products and Japanese brands like Toyota, Honda and Nissan had conquered their image issues and were well-established. Enter the Hyundai Excel, a thrifty subcompact with a compact price tag. For less than six grand, a standard transmission Excel could be had and to be fair, it wasn’t a bad car out of the box. I should know, I owned one. But cars are meant to be driven and the more collective miles the Hyundai brand clocked, the more their quality issues were exposed. It didn’t help that around the same time, another rookie brand from YUGOslavia introduced a similar vehicle that at once became a virtual punch line in the automotive industry. Even struggling domestics like Chrysler had something to laugh at.



Necessity is the mother of automotive (re)invention

The next ten years were not kind to Hyundai but somehow, cars like the Excel and Accent continued to sell. Meanwhile, the company retooled. They invested heavily into R&D and improved their designs. They learned from the competition, namely Toyota, what not to do. Most importantly, they dramatically improved their quality and reliability. Many Hyundai models now rank at or near the top of reliability rankings from major rating services like Consumer Reports and Consumer Guide. Their designs are modern, attractive and in the case of the Genesis, sexy and cutting edge. If you read the automotive internet forums, owners are happy with their Hyundais, too. So why does Hyundai continue to struggle with brand image?



Slow and steady wins the race

They say time heals all wounds and perhaps that will be the case for Hyundai. It’s been almost forty years since the first Accords and Corolla’s hit our shores. Back then, no one would have dreamed those cars would be as popular and respected as they are now. The infamous, self-driving 5000 sedan almost sunk Audi’s chances here. Now, despite some challenges, Audi is competing with BMW and Mercedes Benz for mind and eventually market share. The Mini Cooper was once a quirky British car fit only for quirky Brits like Mr. Bean. Now, it’s an environmentally friendly status symbol. The lesson to Hyundai? Hang in there Hyundai and keep doing what you’re doing. The way things are going in the U.S. auto industry, there just might be a chance for you to take someone’s spot.



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