Thanks in part to sport-utilities, luxury station wagons and hybrids in between the two, European importers will soon blow away sales forecasts that looked impossible only a few years ago.
Porsche and Volkswagen are developing a joint-venture sport wagon that bows in two years. Meanwhile, BMW's X5 sport wagon will be on the streets this fall.
Through July, European makes' sales had gained almost 20 percent for the year. In the first six months of 1999, European makes sold more light vehicles combined in the United States than they sold in all of 1991.
Vehicles in new segments - such as the Mercedes-Benz M-class sport-utility - have played a big role and will continue to do so. But the comeback also is based on a solid foundation of sedans and coupes, including such significant new entries as the redesigned 2000 Mercedes S class and the upcoming BMW 7 series redesign scheduled for 2001.
Such top-of-the-line models give European automakers a chance to bring to market high-tech features such as rain-sensing windshield wipers and intelligent cruise control, a system that automatically slows a vehicle's speed to maintain a safe distance with the vehicle in front.
Safety is still an issue. The BMW X5 sport wagon will be available with 10 airbags when it goes on sale in November - more airbags than passengers.
It will take years for such features to reach mass markets - if ever. And the down side for the European makes is that no high-tech lead lasts long. The gee-whiz features that set European imports apart a couple of years ago - yaw control, xenon headlights, side airbags and others - are now the price of entry to the luxury market.
In that sense, the groundbreaking models on the calendar through 2003 continue an old tradition.