Hyundai's Halo: Car of the Year Award

The Hyundai Genesis, voted 2009 North American Car of the Year, on display during the first press preview day at the North American International Auto Show January 11, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

It's not often that any automaker gets good news out of Detroit these days. But Hyundai Motor got a shot in the arm in its campaign to go upscale when its Genesis sedan won the South Korean automaker's first North American Car of the Year award on Jan. 11. With the global auto industry hit by its worst contraction in decades, few industry watchers expect Hyundai to benefit immediately from the honor. Nevertheless, once consumers start buying again, Hyundai executives believe the Genesis will help it gain market share against Japanese and Western rivals. The Genesis, which they describe as a rival to luxury models such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW's 5 Series, and Toyota's (TM) Lexus GS, marks "a new beginning" for the company, says Hyundai Vice-Chairman Lee Hyun Soon. "It is a game-changing vehicle which will define our product going forward."

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