- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

In the automotive industry, history does seem to have a way of repeating. I'm referring to much more than retro vehicles such as the Ford Thunderbird, Mini Cooper and PT Cruiser.

In the late 1960s, the United States was introduced to a host of Japanese cars: Honda, Toyota and Datsun (later Nissan). Nobody really seemed to take them seriously. Compared with American cars, they were small, lightweight, underpowered little boxes.

Then along came the energy crisis of the early 1970s. In no time, Americans were flocking to purchase these fuel-efficient vehicles.

As demand grew, so did quality and construction. Who would have thought in 1968 that those cars would include today's Lexus, Acura and Infiniti?

About 10 years ago, Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia entered the U.S. market. Again, they weren't taken very seriously. They were low-priced, low-quality vehicles. Many people thought they would never have any real impact on the American auto market.

Again, things have changed.

Just like the Japanese manufacturers, it took the Koreans a while to get a proper read on what American consumers wanted. Price was important, but quality and reliability also mattered.

Today's Korean imports have come a long way.

Americans like certain creature comforts, and we don't like to pay a lot for them.

The Koreans have answered that request. On a new Hyundai Tiburon, the list of standard equipment is impressive, from keyless entry to standard CD player. And for $250 extra, this eye-catching little sports coupe adds touches desired by today's youthful driver: a rear spoiler, a six-speed gearbox and good-looking wheels and tires.

Then, they back this up with one of the best warranties in the business.

Factor in today's sluggish economy, a quality product and a low price, and history is repeating itself.

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