When Hyundai rolled out their outrageously styled Sonata three years ago, car buyers took notice. It's eye-catching exterior styling, well-appointed interior and affordable price was just what a lot of family sedan buyers wanted.

Few will admit it, but carmakers sat up and paid attention, too. However, Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice president for global planning, doesn't mind telling the world that his company certainly saw the significance of the midsize Korean sedan. So much so that they briefly halted design work on the 2013 Altima.

"We even delayed development by a short amount just to check that the (new Altima's) proportions were right, the (package) was right (and that) the product overall was right," Palmer tells Ward's Auto. "I'd say they (Hyundai) are our major point of reference."

But with the Altima as the second-best selling car in its segment, Nissan is focusing not on the Sonata, but on Toyota and the No. 1 best seller: Camry.

"If you keep coming with better cars and better communications, telling better stories, over a period of time," Palmer says. "I guarantee you'll be talking about Toyota and Nissan."

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