RUESSELSHEIM, Germany - The Seoul auto show is like the Tokyo show used to be. Not in the quality and quantity of cars and concepts, but in its power to amaze.
Returning from Seoul, auto people can't stop talking about those daring Koreans and their dreams of conquest.
Each of the three Korean carmakers aims to join the world's top 10 early in the next decade. Seoul's vision of the global auto industry in 2005 is Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo, and seven bystanders.
The companies plan capacity for six million light vehicles in Korea by 2000, even though the local market takes only 1.2 million.
And the Koreans think of every nation on the planet as an emerging market.
We wonder how they will pay for it all. Of course, we've wondered that for 10 years.
The Koreans are used to skepticism and criticism. But they see Japanese, European and US automakers add capacity and cut prices to win market share. They fail to see why they cannot.
These super-enterprising companies are driven by strong-willed individuals, and not just the powerful chairmen. They empower their people. When Ulrich Bez was hired by Daewoo several years ago none of us thought that the ex-Porsche man would stay long.
Not only has Bez stayed, he has built an impressive product-engineering organization that will launch three new cars in Europe this year.
Bez is not loved by everyone inside Daewoo, but has full support from Chairman Kim Woo-Choong and a free hand to do what is needed.
Meanwhile, each Korean automaker has unleashed powerful young project leaders - most in their mid-30s - to develop new cars.
With their improved products, the ambitious Koreans are going everywhere. And everywhere they go they meet General Motors.
It is no accident that GM keeps bumping into Koreans - Daewoo in Ukraine and Poland, Hyundai in China, Kia in Indonesia. Together, the Koreans and GM's Europe-led international operations are on the cutting edge of global expansion.
GM is building new plants in Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and China. It will probably share in the running of Ukrainian carmaker AutoZAZ with Daewoo and is ready to replace Peugeot as the local partner in a joint venture in Guangzhou, China.
But most significant of all may be GM's new tie-up with Russia's AutoVAZ, the maker of Ladas.
Even Daewoo didn't want any part of the inefficient and outdated factory complex in Togliatti, a city 1,000km southeast of Moscow on the Volga River.
For GM it is an extraordinary opportunity. The fully integrated Russian motor city - built by Fiat in the 1960s - is bigger than Volkswagen's Wolfsburg works. It can build a million cars a year.
GM may soon build Opels there and distribute them through Russia's best distribution network. Opel managers will try to teach Togliatti's workers how to make cars as efficiently as they taught East Germans in Eisenach.
Some here at Opel headquarters in Ruesselsheim worry about all the attention paid to the rest of the world. Market share is falling in Germany and Opel quality has suffered.
But the rest of the world won't wait.
No one agonizes anymore about whether it is prudent to enter countries like Russia, China, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. It's an all-out race and GM and the Koreans are making others look flat-footed.