"We've changed our 2000 sales estimates three different times." Robert Cosmai, vice president of national sales for Hyundai Motor America, has reason to be confident in 2001 after its sales performance in 2000.

His company initially projected sales of 200,000 units in 2000. By June, they increased that estimate to 220,000. Now, they are saying they 240,000 is more like it. That represents a 46% increase over 1999 sales. "And all this without a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) for most of this year," Mr. Cosmai emphasizes.

He's predicting the import company's sales will hit a record 264,000 units in 2001, regardless of what the economy does.

After enduring some image and quality problems in the 90's, and a particularly terrible year in 1997, Hyundai has turned things around dramatically the last two years.

Mr. Cosmai attributes that to Hyundai's consistent advertising message, vehicles of improved quality and the development of the Hyundai Warranty Advantage, considered the best warranty in the industry: 5-years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain.

Hyandai strengthened its product line in 2000, introducing the Santa Fe, the latest SUV to hit the market; and its XG300, a moderately priced sedan. They are projecting sales of 55,000 this year for the Santa Fe; while, the XG300 should reach the 15,000 mark.

The Korean import company added 45 dealerships in 2000, bringing the total to 525. They plan to add 40 in 2001. Mr. Cosmai says, "We need to select markets where we can maximize Hyundai profits and insure dealer profitability."

To improve its customer satisfaction ratings, Hyundai is including customer satisfaction in its incentive programs for the dealership.

The importer this month rolls out a Star Program. That incentive plan rewards sales consultants for both taking care of the customer and selling cars.