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When It Comes to Cars, Korea Is the New Japan

• Jalopnik via

Hyundai and Kia have sold more vehicles to Americans than all European automakers combined through the first seven months of 2011, and they’re growing faster than any other automaker. Here’s how South Korea’s automakers have the rest of the world on the run.

It’s not a great time to sell new cars and trucks in the United States, what with people not having cash or jobs or homes that are worth as much as they thought when they bought them with money they didn’t have. Yet Hyundai has seen sales grow by an astonishing 23 percent this year, while Kia, its semi-autonomous budget-brand partner, has recorded 28 percent growth. Those are records for both companies.

It makes sense. Each company has a strong lineup of vehicles with few weaknesses. The Hyundai Sonata and Elantra were the ninth and 10th-best selling cars in the country last month, and the Kia Sorrento cracked the top 10 for trucks.

Behind the success of the Korean automakers lies a combination of skill, luck and ass-kicking by a man now among the world’s most powerful executives.

Here’s a few reasons for the Koreans’ good fortune:

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