Hyundai Throws Down the Glove

According to news reports today April 29, 2005, Hyundai Motors is predicting that they will be the top quality producer by 2008, displacing Toyota. This is good news for Toyota and their kaizen efforts. Toyota needs a worthy challenger to keep them on their toes so they won’t grow complacent at being the best. It’s hard to wring water out of a dry towel, but the harder kaizen is at Toyota, the harder they try.
Today Toyota averages 101 complaints per 100 vehicles, and Hyundai 102. Much better than the competition, but still not ‘defect-free’ from a consumer standpoint. We can safely assume that neither of these companies will lower their standards, so this challenge by Hyundai is good news for the consumer.
Hyundai has been studying and adopting Toyota’s systematic approach to improving quality, whether they call it kaizen or not. The hands-on, shop-floor focused attitude of their executives is reminiscent of the hunger Toyota had to “catch up with America” 40 years ago.
Hopefully Detroit and its extended supply chain will take this as a wake-up call. Hyundai was a joke less than 20 years ago. Hyundai has recognized the ‘best practices’ of TPS and adopted them, and now they are the number 6 auto maker worldwide. If the U.S. automobile industry doesn’t step up to this challenge, they risk becoming irrelevant in the next decade. Wait and watch until 2008, or pick up a copy of The Toyota Way on the way to your next kaizen event?