Finbarr O'Neill, the North American sales boss for Hyundai Motor Co., should feel like the king of the world, according to a Detroit News
story by Joe Miller. Last year, Hyundai's new vehicle sales in the United States rose an industry-best 41.7 percent, and so far this year they're up 15.5 percent,making Hyundai the 11th biggest brand in America, up seven spots from 2000.And Hyundai is finally shedding its reputation for shoddy cars, according to the News
. J.D. Power and Associates in May said initial quality of Hyundai vehicles improved 42 percent during the last five years, the largest gain by any car company.O'Neill, however, has loftier plans for the South Korean car company, according to the News
. Namely, to put Hyundai on the same shopping lists as leading import brands Toyota and Honda, a goal he believes will take three to five years and an expanded lineup of cars and trucks.To O'Neill, Toyota, Honda and even Nissan represent the "tier one" import brands, the ones that people talk about knowingly with each other "over back yard fences and at parties," hesaid. Getting there means Hyundai has to leapfrog established "tier two" brands such as Mazda and Mitsubishi. "We have a ways to go," O'Neill said. "One of our challenges is to make it OK to have Hyundai in your driveway."