Hyundai makes good cars now?

Man I must be getting old… Now I know how Rip van Winkle felt.

Hyundai Now a Contender

With Commitment to Quality,(!) Automaker Sets Sights on Big Three, Toyota

DETROIT — The car made a dramatic entrance, lowered by chains from the ceiling into a cloud of smoke and flashing lights. This was no curvaceous sports car debuting at the North American International Auto Show; it was an unadorned four-door sedan — the 2006 Hyundai Sonata.

A few years ago, such hype for a Hyundai might have seemed funny, given the South Korean company’s reputation for cheap, shabby products. But this week’s bold unveiling of the Sonata was greeted soberly by rival U.S. automakers, who now compare South Korea to the up-and-coming Japan of the 1980s. …

Hyundai has reached this point gradually, increasing its sales for each of the past six years after stumbling badly in the 1980s with poor-quality products. Last year, the company overtook Honda and Nissan to become the world’s seventh-biggest automaker. Also last year, U.S. consumers rated Hyundai and Honda as tied for second-best in overall quality in an influential J.D. Power and Associates survey — ahead of Mercedes-Benz and behind only Toyota.

“Hyundai is very clearly targeting Toyota — I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind that Hyundai really does want to take a piece out of them,” Spinella said. “And the attitude is, they’ll walk over Nissan, Honda, GM and Ford in order to get there. Even if they never touch Toyota, in the meantime there’ll be a whole lot of collateral damage.”

The idea the a Hyundai could ever be compared favorably to a Toyota was laughable not that long ago. [or not that long ago to me] Apparently I need to reset my “car quality compass.”

The times they ARE a changing.

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