Toyota feels Hyundai breathing down its neck

"Our main competitors here are essentially Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Hyundai, but Hyundai is the one we are very carefully watching," said Yukitoshi Funo, chairman of Toyota Motor Sales USA at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

With those words, the second largest automaker in the world voiced what industry insiders and auto enthusiasts have known for some time: Hyundai (and its affiliate Kia Motors), whose objective is to be among the world’s top five automakers by 2010, is emulating Toyota—not General Motors (currently the number one automaker world-wide), Ford, or even Nissan and Honda (second and third of the Japanese “Big Three”)—to accomplish its goal. The company’s strategies of presenting a large number of quality products, from compact vehicles to SUVs to large sedans (like the Azera, pictured) to a broad range of consumers, is Toyota’s well-known method of operation.

Unfortunately for Toyota, Hyundai uses Toyota's prices as benchmarks to price its own vehicles for thousands less. Toyota refuses to match such figures, instead continuing to develop its reputation and vehicle value.

That brings up a good question, though. With both companies' offerings nearly matched, will Americans stay loyal to a brand? Or will the lower MSRP finally tempt them?

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