There are no dirt floors at Hyundai's shining new manufacturing facility in Hope Hull, Alabama.

Advanced robotics handle much of the work. From the time steel is delivered to the plant to the moment it actually reaches the car, no human hand touches it. Skeletal vehicles slide down a quiet monorail system that adjusts to each worker's height. Auto bodies are mechanically dipped and rotated­ 360 degrees in tanks filled with a rust-preventive coating, a new process aimed at eliminating the air pockets - and weak links - that always lingered after older plants' simpler dump-down, lift-out bathing procedures.

Those are just a few examples of the new technology that gives Hyundai an extra manufacturing edge. And Power says it's been clear for almost a decade that Hyundai is prepared to spend extra to sharpen that edge as it cuts out a bigger market share for itself.

"I visited [Korea] back in '96, '97, and got a look at their facilities, and I saw what they were investing in: product development, test tracks, wind tunnels, state-of-the-art technology," Power says. "And I knew that was eventually going to have a big effect on the quality level of the vehicles."

Then came a crucial heart-to-heart meeting in 1998, when Power outlined a new approach to the company.

"I listed the steps Hyundai needed to take, and I talked about the voice of the customer," Power says. "They had to listen to what the customer wanted. And if they monitored the buyers of their vehicles, we could show them where certain aspects of the vehicle needed more attention."