This month the Koreans are poised to reach a significant sales milestone in the United States.
Specifically, combined sales for the Hyundai and Kia brands for the year likely will top 1 million units. Sales probably will end at around 1.1 million for the year, compared with 894,496 last year.
More than a decade ago, most Detroit auto executives had written off both brands as serious competitors. Back then the memories were fresh of the Hyundai Excel debacle in the late '80s; the vehicle was the poster child for poor quality. And Kia had just two models.
Several years ago I had a long conversation in South Korea with one of Hyundai's vice presidents. He admitted that Hyundai had made mistakes and had underestimated American car buyers' expectations.
The next round of redesigned vehicles would have quality equal to the Japanese, he promised, adding that he hoped Americans would give Hyundai a second chance when the new models debuted.
If Hyundai failed with the vehicles debuting from 2006 to 2010, he said, there was little or no chance Americans would give Hyundai a third chance.
He was right.
Not only did Hyundai improve quality; it created vehicles with styling that turned heads, along with pricing and a long list of standard equipment that made the vehicles a good value.
Finally, Hyundai and Kia began a new-product blitz.
The sales numbers tell the story of the brands' success in the United States.
Through October Hyundai sold 545,316 vehicles. Kia tallied 405,095. Total sales through October for the two brands combined was 950,411 vehicles.
Compared with the January-through-October period of last year, combined sales are up 26 percent.
And when you compare this year's 10-month period with 2009's, sales are up a staggering 50 percent.
Simply, Hyundai's and Kia's sales pace has been fast and furious.