As the recession batters most automakers, onetime industry laughingstock Hyundai is riding high. The South Korean company just had its best retail month ever, the Washington Post reports. Its share of the US market rose from 3.6% to 4.6%, and it passed Ford to become fourth in global sales. Perceived, like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, as a value-priced brand, Hyundai has escaped the shadow of quality problems that dogged the company in the 1980s.
Hyundai has also been swift and savvy in taking advantage of its competitors' distress: When GM backed out of its Academy Awards advertising, Hyundai stepped in. It was first among major automakers to offer to take a car back if a buyer was out of a job, and the first to jump on the Cash for Clunkers program. In the end, Hyundai's Elantra was the fifth-best-selling car in the program. "For Hyundai, a recession would be a terrible thing to waste—and they're not," an industry observer said.