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Is Hyundai becoming a Tier 1 brand?

Ryan Beene is a Los Angeles-based reporter for Automotive News.

As I watch Hyundai rack up accolades, boost sales, gain shopper consideration and improve quality metrics, a question has begun to eat at me.

What defines a Tier 1 brand?

Is it a rich history and long-standing reputation for quality and dependability? If so, then Hyundai’s not there yet. It has made progress, but it must sustain it over time.

And even a brand with such a reputation, Toyota, has taken a hit from the recalls of millions of vehicles for safety issues since the fall of 2009.

Is it a specific brand’s annual U.S. sales total, say, a million or more cars per year? If so, Nissan doesn’t fit the bill.

I’m not suggesting that any of these brands are not top-level brands. I’m simply highlighting the subjective criteria we in the industry use to classify any brand as Tier 1.

One can make a compelling argument for why all of these brands do or don’t deserve top-shelf billing. And consumers may consider all of these factors, and more, when they choose to buy a brand’s vehicle.

So, I pose a question: What needs to happen for Hyundai to garner top-flight brand status? What do you think?

I expect a range of responses. But here’s a thought I’ll leave with you: If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that reputation, history, size, strength and breadth of product guarantee nothing. The biggest can be humbled and scrappiness can pay major dividends.

In this industry, nothing is permanent.

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