In a town in rural Pennsylvania, the car factory has been shut down, leaving the town economically distressed. A Japanese company, Assan Motors, has purchased the factory, but will need to be convinced that it is worth re-opening. Hunt Stevenson goes to Japan to make a presentation to Assan's management, and the result is that Assan sends a management team to America and the factory is re-opened, although the workers will earn a substantially lower wage than they had before the factory had originally closed. Still, Hunt is a hero for having convinced management to re-open.
The culture clash is severe, as Japanese management demands far more regimentation and output than the workers are used to, and unpaid overtime is expected when output falls short of productivity standards. Management has little regard for the workers and the quality of their lives, focusing on productivity alone. The workers become agitated and their relationship with management becomes adversarial. Hunt, acting as employee liaison, tries to smooth things over, but is unable, and when a worker intentionally knocks over one of the Japanese managers during a company baseball game, the situation appears beyond repair.
Japanese management sees little point in keeping the factory open until Hunt contends that he can match the production of a Japanese factory in its best month, meaning 15,000 completed cars. Amused by this contention, Japanese management agrees that if this output is reached, the factory would remain open and wages would return to the levels in effect prior to the original closing of the factory. Otherwise, it would close.
Hunt advises the workers of this deal, but his announcement is met with incredulity, and, to appease them, he falsely relates that a lesser raise would still be earned if output exceeded 13,000 cars. The workers give it a shot, but, despite working long hours and on weekends, they conclude that the goal of 15,000 is unattainable, and decide to go for the raise that would come if 13,000 cars were completed. After attaining this goal, the workers walk out on management when a dispute arises. Now, Hunt must come clean, and tell his town that the made a deal for 15,000 cars, and that failure would result in no raises, which would devastate the town's local economy. Hunt has now gone from hero to goat, and his co-workers are furious.
Still, in the end they put their noses to the grindstone and put their differences with the Japanese managers aside as the senior executive from Japan is coming to check on the state of the factory. When the executive comes by, they have fallen slightly short of their 15,000 target, but the Japanese executive is impressed by the team spirit he sees in the factory. Liking the way that the Americans and Japanese are now working together, he decides to keep the factory open, and give the full raises, and the stage is set for an era of understanding among all those working at the factory.