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Can Hyundai Match Its Red-hot 2010?

In an industry that has been putting up big numbers since getting out of intensive care, one of the most impressive performances has come from Hyundai.

Look at the fourth quarter and 2010 earningsposted by the company early this morning:

  • Record 4Q earnings $1.3 Billion (up) 48%
  • Record annual net profit (up) 78%
  • Revenue in U.S. (up) 46 %

By almost any measure, Hyundai's performance last year is the kind of break through year that turns heads inside and outside the industry.

Hyundai
Hyundai

Outside the industry, customers are waking up to the improved styling and quality of models like the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra as well as Kia models like the Forte and Sorento.

Inside the industry, executives at competing automakers are talking about Hyundai's aggressiveness and the fact the Korean automaker is winning with spot on marketing and a global expansion that will challenge the big boys around the world.

Can Hyundai/Kia stay red-hot like this?

U.S. sales may not grow at a 54% clip in 2011, but I will not be surprised to see them grow faster than the industry in the U.S. As that continues, Hyundai will soon have to face the question of when and where to add another assembly plant in the U.S. Overseas, Hyundai has just fired up a plant in Russia and its expansion there and in China will further fuel the company's earnings outside of South Korea. And yes, at home, Hyundai remains the dominant player.

The challenge for Hyundai will come later this year and over the next two years as the company tries to maintain and build on its impressive growth. Sure it has styling and quality that ranks up there with the best in the industry, but delivering on that expectation with the next generation of models will be the test of whether Hyundai stays red-hot.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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