This year, Chung, 66, made good on his promise to boost Hyundai's quality to "Toyota (TM
) levels." J.D. Power & Associates' 2004 survey of initial quality -- which counts complaints in the first 90 days of ownership -- showed the Korean auto maker had virtually caught up with Toyota Motor Corp. And Hyundai's Sonata was the top-ranked car in the "entry midsize" category.
Now Hyundai is on a roll. Despite a recent slump in Korean consumer spending that led to a 10% drop in domestic sales, the company expects a 2004 operating profit of some $2.4 billion, up 17% from 2003, on sales of $25.2 billion, up 8%. In China, Hyundai is expected to have sold 150,000 cars in 2004 -- triple its 2003 sales there.
In 2005, Hyundai will start building a revamped Sonata for the U.S. market to challenge Toyota's popular Camry. The new Sonata and Tucson sport-utility vehicle will also be key in efforts to expand in Europe, China, and smaller markets. With Chung at the helm, Hyundai now stands a chance of racing past its rivals.