The historic image of the Eastern European automotive industry was one of poor quality and badly run state-owned organizations.
Yet this perception is changing due to the reality of cheap - but skilled - labor producing cars to Western standards.
This is particularly true in the Czech Republic. The region was previously known for its textile industries, but the decline of that activity has created a large pool of skilled engineers.
In recent years, a number of manufacturers have moved to Poland, including Fiat, GM and Daewoo.
Now major suppliers are following suit. Indeed, TI Group Automotive Systems has had a presence in the country since 1996. The company supplies Fiat at its plant in Bielski-Biala, and also Daewoo through a new facility in Pultusk.
With a steady economy and annual inflation below 10 percent, auto production in Poland is growing at an annual rate of 10 percent.
While the vast majority of cars produced by Western companies in Eastern Europe are exported, the Czech and Polish home markets will expand. Moreover, the industry's investment in Eastern Europe continues to grow. Renault, for example, recently formed a joint venture in Slovenia.
Many believe the biggest long-term opportunities are in Russia. Due to the country's instability, Russia is not on automakers' short-term wish list. Nevertheless, within 10 years, Western automakers will significantly increase their presence there.
Eastern European companies have proved willing to move toward world-class standards by adapting work practices learned from the West.
This places great emphasis on proper hiring practices and continuous employee training. But with initial support from Western employees, new satellite facilities can be staffed and managed entirely by a local work force within a year.
Political and economic upheaval continues to handicap the area, as can be seen in the former Yugoslavia. But the West's automotive presence in Eastern Europe is set to grow.
Those organizations ambitious enough to make those first pioneering steps now will benefit in the long run as the market strengthens.