If you haven't seen the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, be prepared to be shocked. It's artfully designed, well appointed and competitively powered. Now with Toyota's quality in question there's an opening big enough to drive a few hundred thousand of these cars through.
Hyundai's formula for success is simple. Deliver at least adequately on all the key functional areas and knock it out of the park on design. I haven't driven one yet, but given my past experience with Hyundai, it will certainly drive no worse than the Camry I just spent 14 hours in. The 100,000 mile warranty will provide potential buyers with enough assurance of quality. And it has all the bells and whistles we've come to expect in our mid-size sedans. But the difference between this car, the Malibu, Camry, Accord, and Fusion (all excellent cars), is that it takes the design in the category to a whole new level. It's drop dead gorgeous.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. A few years ago when I was at the Detroit Auto Show, I was talking to a Hyundai exec who said, "most of the industry doesn't get it. Design is the key differentiator, and it's essentially free."
It's a pretty good bet that automotive isn't the only category where this is true.