Has Any Automaker Improved Faster Than Hyundai?

Spotting these two old friends in a parking lot over the weekend was a stark reminder of just how far Hyundai has come. On the left is a perfect example of what many of us picture when we picture a Hyundai. On the right is the truth of what Hyundai has become.

Now that the South Korean automaker is just about on par with the likes of Honda and Toyota in terms of design and price, it’s easy to forget about Hyundai’s humble beginnings and awkward growing pains.

Today’s Hyundai vehicles are sleek, stylish, reliable, and comfortable. They routinely turn heads and evoke comments of, “That’s a Hyundai?” Unfortunately, an aversion to the growing price tags are a less-desirable first response for some buyers who haven’t shopped the brand in a decade or two.

Hyundai is the seventh best selling automaker in America. Honda is number five. It’s pretty clear that, regardless of the slowly increasing price, Americans have embraced the once-lowly automaker and enabled it to blossom into a household name. Just how far has Hyundai come?

The automaker sold over a million vehicles before it sold a single car in the United States. In 1987, its first year on the market here, the Hyundai Excel sold 261,392 units. By 1990, however, the Excel virtually fell off the sales charts after gaining a reputation for being too cheap. In 1998, Hyundai introduced the now-infamous 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and enjoyed a massive sales jump of 82 percent the next year.

Since the early 2000s Hyundai has slowly been rising in J.D. Power’s various rankings. In 2001 it received the J.D. Power Chairman Award for its commitment to quality improvements. In 2009 the Hyundai Genesis was awarded North American Car of the Year by a panel of 50 automotive journalists and placed first in J.D. Power’s Vehicle Launch Index.

This year, Hyundai improved its vehicle dependability rankings by 25 points according to J.D. Power. That marks a 16 percent increase over last year’s rankings and represents the automaker’s best-ever performance in the Vehicle Dependability Study.

Has any other automaker improved more than Hyundai over the last two decades? Are any new Hyundais on your test-drive list?

-tgriffith

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