Hyundai In High Gear

Once the butt of jokes, the Korean brand is among the hottest on America's highways

Since Hyundai broke into the U.S. auto market in 1986, the jokes have rolled off comics' tongues as fast as the company's unwanted cars have piled up in showrooms. How about Jay Leno's line--that the only consumers who benefit from high gasoline prices are Hyundai owners because every time they fill up, the car's value doubles. The tinny, troublesome autos had so many problems that dealers made repairs a profit center. Their unadvertised slogan: Hope You Understand Nothing's Drivable and Inexpensive. The notion that Korea was another Japan ready to challenge U.S. competitiveness evaporated in late-night laughter.

But it may be...

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