Each individual aspect of Hyundai's cars was matched up against the competition - right down to every suspension system, headrest, and power outlet. The head-to-head comparisons clearly showed Hyundai where it needed to make improvements.

To make sure they didn't forget, Hyundai managers have kept a copy of Power's advice on a conference-room wall - vowing to keep it there until they are given credit for surpassing Toyota's reputation for quality.

Listen to Hyundai's American manufacturing team, though, and they'll tell you that new technology isn't what gives them a real advantage.

"I think a lot of the differences are more in the cultural aspects of it," says John Kalson, Hyundai's production director for motor manufacturing in Alabama. "Anybody can buy technology, and we have some of the greatest techniques that are out there. The difference is in that total mind-set and total philosophical belief that, yeah, we can do it. And everybody pulls in the same direction. It's just elevated like I've never seen before."

Hyundai's U.S. operations also have the kind of manufacturing flexibility that the Big Three American automakers would drool over. Sure, a lot of its workers are new to building cars, and they need training. But they also aren't wed to tradition. When changes are called for, adaptation comes quickly. And everyone is expected to play a role.

"Right now, you can say people are in a honeymoon phase," adds Kalson. "People are so excited to work here, there's energy all around you. Everyone wants to be a part of it."
Including the competition.