Is Toyota loosing its touch?
Interesting data was released yesterday by General Motors. It seems that the company isn’t in much danger of falling behind Toyota in sales. To the contrary, it’s pulling away from them.
General Motors set a new record in the third quarter for world-wide sales, increasing sales by 4% over the year earlier period to 2.39 million vehicles. While Toyota hasn’t released world-wide sales figures, it’s sales in the U.S., Europe and Japan – its biggest markets – were down 3.8% for the quarter. As the company does not have a significant presence in many other markets, it is not expected that sales elsewhere can make up for the decline in these markets.
But they sure did at GM. Though GM’s North American sales fell 6.1% to 1.21 vehicles, mostly due to the declining truck market, it scored big everywhere else. Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East sales were up 22 percent to 329,398 vehicles. European sales were up 15% to 523,590. Overall, non-North American sales were 57% of the company’s total sales, and it’s aiming to increase that to 60%.
Which brings up the question of what Toyota’s doing – or not doing.
Toyota does not have a competitive presence in either China or Latin America markets, two of the fastest growing markets and both places where GM has been exceptionally successful. GM has much better market penetration in Europe than Toyota, as well – GM’s Opel division was responsible for most of the European sales gain.
It wasn’t so long ago that General Motors was the company that seemed to be rooted in the past, unable to adapt to changing markets. When Toyota publicly vowed to become the largest selling producer of vehicles in the world two years ago, many people thought of that promise as an inevitability, and inevitable sooner rather than later.
But, ever since, it’s been as though Toyota were cursed by that decision. It’s been plagued by recalls and quality problems.
In Japan, it and its executives were investigated for hiding a deadly steering defect (in a model not sold here). Two of its top American executives have jumped ship to Chrysler and Ford, respectively. Two days ago, Toyota got trashed by Consumer Reports, with its mainstay Camry rated “below average” in reliability. Yesterday, a federal appellate court upheld a jury finding that Toyota has infringed a patent with the hybrid drivetrain design used on the Prius and its other hybrid vehicles, including one in the Lexus line. Even its leading position in the hybrid market is slipping, with Toyota’s admission that it cannot produce a lithium ion battery in the immediately foreseeable future.
And now the news that GM is pulling away in the sales race, world-wide.
If it weren’t for bad luck, it seems, Toyota wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Beyond the quality issues, however, Toyota does not seem to be focusing on the places where cars are going to be selling in the future. While General Motors is establishing a leadership position in emerging markets, Toyota seems to be struggling to maintain its place in mature markets.
But, even there, things don’t seem to be as tranquil for Toyota as they once were.
GM thinks they’ve finally gotten it right with the Malibu.
If they are correct, Toyota’s going to keep slipping.