History tends to repeat itself.
Twenty-seven years ago at the Detroit auto show, Nissan Motor Co. unveiled the Infiniti Q45 and Toyota Motor Corp. revealed the Lexus LS 400, signaling that Japan's debutante luxury brands belonged at the ball.
Next week, Hyundai Motor Co. and Volvo Car Corp. will introduce posh sedans as standard-bearers for multibillion-dollar investments in luxury cars.
Hyundai will show the G90 full-size sedan as the flagship of a Genesis luxury brand that will offer three sedans, two light trucks and a coupe by 2020. Volvo, amid an $11 billion revival plan under Chinese ownership, will unveil an S90 sedan that the company has described as its "entry ticket to the premium sedan club."
The club is bursting with applicants. Luxury vehicles account for roughly one in nine of the global industry's light-vehicle sales but 40 percent of its profits, making them irresistible to large mass-market automakers.
"It's only natural," Hans-Werner Kaas, a Detroit-based director at consulting firm McKinsey, said in an interview. "Automotive luxury, just by the sheer size of the relative profit pool, attracts lots of new players."
The clear benchmark for Hyundai and Volvo is Lexus, which has grown into a genuine rival to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. These three brands run neck and neck in U.S. sales, and together, they account for half of America's luxury-car market, which totaled 1.9 million vehicles in 2014.
Next week in Detroit, BMW plans to unveil the high-powered M2 coupe, while Mercedes plans to introduce its next-generation E-class sedan and a freshened version of the SLK roadster, which will be renamed the SLC for the 2017 model year.
Lexus will unveil the LC, an eye-catching coupe aimed at the Mercedes SL and the BMW 6 series that reflects Toyota President Akio Toyoda's campaign for racier cars. Based on the LF-LC concept unveiled in Detroit in 2012, the rear-wheel-drive LC is expected to be offered with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine or a high-powered hybrid powertrain.