Korean cars like Hyundai, Kia are on the rise

LOS ANGELES There are lots of choices when it comes to midsize sedans including the 2011 Kia Optima. Once a company known for bland bargain basement cars, Kia is in the midst of a major styling makeover.

"We've taken chances with the styling. We've incorporated a dynamic styling that actually is very different than the other midsized sedans in the segment, and we think that will appeal to new customers that would have never thought about Kia before," said Kia spokesman Ralph Tjoa.

The Optima is the mechanical twin to the Hyundai Sonata. Kia and Hyundai are part of the same Korean company, and auto industry observers are noticing its recent progress.

"This is not a company to mess around with. These people have learned the same way that Toyota and Nissan and Honda learned about 30 years ago, how to be the leaders at their own game," said Car and Driver editor Steve Siler.

In the 70s, many laughed at Honda's early foray into cars. They've since become a powerhouse.

Hyundai's gaining a similar kind of momentum recently. Their display at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show was large and elaborate.

Also, a new Kia factory in Georgia was built to keep up with increasing demand. It has the flexibility to build new Hyundais as well.

Both Hyundai and Kia have been busy updating their product portfolios with solid entries in pretty much every segment like the Optima in the midsize sedan category, which is basically the bread and butter of the auto industry.

Hyundai is also making a big and bold move later in 2010 and entering the new territory of luxury automobiles with the Equus.

Would you believe a $60,000 car could be a Hyundai? Even though it can go feature-to-feature with other luxury models, it might have a tough go when it comes actual sales.

"When Volkswagen tried the same trick a few years back with that large, and luxurious and beautiful Phaeton, and nobody cared and nobody bought it. So, I don't have tremendously bigger hopes for the Equus, although it is a really great car," said Siler.

In reality, the $20,000 to $30,000 cars are where the big sales are. In this price spectrum, the Korean auto industry has come on with full force.

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