Hyundai Scores Against Toyota in Super Bowl Advertising

Last Updated Feb 8, 2010 11:33 AM EST

The sharpest stab in last night's Super Bowl wasn't the interception the Saints ran back for a touchdown, it was a dig in a Hyundai (HYMLF.PK) commercial about the new Hyundai Sonata being built by "3,300 quality experts. Think about it."

Zing! It didn't take much "thinking about it" to realize that intentional or not, the Hyundai Super Bowl ad was a terrific razzing of Toyota (TM).

The Hyundai Sonata ad showed Hyundai employees carrying a car through the assembly process by hand, as a way to illustrate that Hyundai puts so much care into it, it supposedly feels like it was built by hand.

Incidentally, people outside the auto industry don't realize that hand-built cars are often the worst quality, because no two are alike. Quality, precision, efficiency and repeatability all work hand in hand. That's a lesson Toyota taught the rest of the auto industry. (Ironically, Toyota took much of its lessons from the late W. Edwards Deming, an American.) Even high-end brands like Porsche learned the Toyota System, in order to improve their quality and efficiency.

But today, Toyota is the one that looks like it's a few thousand quality experts short. Toyota last night devoted valuable Super Bowl advertising to its humiliating gas-pedal recall.

Besides the Hyundai Sonata "quality experts" ad, Hyundai also had a Super Bowl ad featuring aging Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, made up to look 10 years older, winning the 2020 Super Bowl. The joke is that Favre is both still playing and still undecided whether to retire. Hyundai uses the ad to tout its 10-year warranty, which in an uncertain world will still be in force 10 years from now.

Hyundai ran no fewer than eight ads in or around the Super Bowl. It was the third year in a row Hyundai advertised on the Super Bowl, and the second year in a row it sponsored the kickoff show.

Kia also advertised on the Super Bowl. The brands are largely separate, but Kia and Hyundai both belong to South Korea's Hyundai Group. Both Kia and Hyundai had banner sales years in the United States in 2009, while most other brands tanked.

Final Super Bowl score: Hyundai Group, 31; rest of the automotive world, including Toyota, 17; but it wasn't even that close.