Toyota finally toppled General Motors to become the world's biggest carmaker for the first time in 2008. However, a series of problems, not least the tragic 2011 Japanese earthquake, caused sales to slump alarmingly at the turn of the decade. Toyota regained the #1 position once again in 2012. The company has a firm grip on its home country with controlling stakes in fellow carmaker Daihatsu and leading truck manufacturer Hino, and combined market share in excess of 40%. Above all, though, Toyota is keen to establish itself as a global motor manufacturer not a Japanese exporter. It has taken care to adapt its products to local tastes with region-specific cars like the Camry in the US and Avensis and Corolla in Europe, and has worked hard to shift the majority of its non-domestic production outside Japan. Never one to rest on its laurels, Toyota has consistently pushed into new areas, the most notable of which has been its pioneering success with the Prius fuel-electric hybrid. Yet not even the best-run of the world's auto manufacturers was able to withstand the impact of the sudden decline in the global car industry from 2008 onwards. This led to a substantial loss for the financial year, the first in Toyota's history. Potentially more damaging, though, were serious lapses in quality control which prompted a massive vehicle recall in 2010, and a criminal investigation by a US federal grand jury. Ultimately no technical faults were proven, but Toyota's reputation was sullied by the whole affair and it received a $1.2bn fine for failing to cooperate with investigators.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Feb 2016: Toyota acquired the 49% of equity it didn't already own in Japanese partner Daihatsu through a share swap that valued the business at around $6bn. The Daihatsu brand will be retained, and lead development of minivehicles and city cars. CEO Akio Toyoda indicated he wants to establish Daihatsu as a global brand in the mini segment. That development prompted concern from other Japanese carmakers, not least Suzuki, which said it feared increased competition from the combined business in minicar-dominated markets such as India. Separately, Toyota announced the termination of its youth brand Scion, sold mainly in the US. Its models will continue, but sold under the main Toyota name.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jan 2016: A continuing slowdown in the final quarter lost Volkswagen the top spot it had seized earlier in the year as the world's biggest carmaker. Total volumes were 9.93m cars and LCVs for the year, but 2014 leader Toyota regained the lead with a final tally of 10.15m. It had fallen to 2nd place at the half year. Toyota is almost certain to retain pole position for 2016 because of the repercussions from VW's Dieselgate scandal. GM held third place with 9.84m, ahead of Renault-Nissan with 8.22m. Toyota and Volkswagen both reported a slight decline from 2014, but GM's total was up 0.2% to a new record high, while Renault-Nissan rose 2%. Separately, Toyota is considering taking full control of part-subsidiary Daihatsu, in which it currently has a 51% stake, in order to boost its position in the domestic market, where sales have been under pressure.
Despite its end of year troubles, the Volkswagen brand's top models put in a good showing in terms of individual sales. According to figures compiled by researcher Focus2move, the VW Golf overtook Ford's Focus to become the world's second best-selling car for the first time, with sales up almost 9% to a personal best of 1.04m units. It was one of only two models to shift more than 1m units. The Toyota Corolla held onto the top spot with sales of almost 1.4m units. The VW Polo also did well, taking 7th place (up from 10th in 2014). Ford held the #3 and #4 positions with the F-Series and Focus respectively. Toyota's Camry and Hyundai's Elantra were 5th and 6th. The Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Silverado and Toyota RAV-4 rounded out the Top Ten.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Dec 2015: Ads of the Week: "The Benchmark, Rebuilt". Anyone uncomfortable with the idea of wild game hunting should probably skip this extraordinary campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand for Toyota. A succession of different animals are happy to sacrifice themselves for the honour of a ride in the new Hilux. It's quite a dark idea, though executed (ahem!) with considerable wit. Readers with long memories will remember similarly black-humoured spots from the same team, like the cat that risks multiple injuries to get a ride in a Toyota Corolla or the married couple who compete in various ways to assassinate each other in order to take the Toyota RAV4 to work. Enjoy!
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Oct 2015: Toyota regained its lead in the global automobile market from troubled Volkswagen. For the nine months to the end of Sept, Toyota sold 7.49m vehicles overtaking Volkswagen's 7.43m. The latest figures reverse the half-year ranking, when Volkswagen had overtaken Toyota to seize the #1 spot. GM remains in third place at 7.2m vehicles. Volkswagen's figures don't yet include any significant impact from the emissions scandal, which was revealed only two weeks before the end of September. Instead, the damage has come from China, Volkswagen's biggest individual market, where sales are down more than 7% so far this year.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Oct 2015: Toyota fought back against Google's self-driving car threat by unveiling "automated driving" technology that will allow vehicles to join major roads, change lanes and perform other tasks without driver intervention, using multiple cameras, lasers and radar. Toyota is keen to challenge perceptions that it has been overtaken in self-driving technology by companies such as Google, pointing out that it has been working on these areas for more than two decades.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The world's #1 car manufacturer. Not bad for what is still in some ways a family firm. Founded by patriarch Sakichi Toyoda in 1918, it is still run by a family member (although non-family executives held the CEO role from 1995 to 2009). The original Toyota business was very different from the motor manufacturing powerhouse of today. Sakichi Toyoda's company was the Toyoda Spinning & Weaving Company. But the development of automatic looms in the 1930s, and the engines to run them, suggested to Sakichi's son Kiichiro that he might be better off moving into a more productive industry. He renamed the company Toyota - easier to write in Japanese characters than Toyoda - and steered it in a new direction making automotives. The company turned out its first prototype vehicle, the Model AA, in 1936, and Toyota Motor Company was set up the following year. Nevertheless, looms remained a key part of the business for the next 15 years. It was only post-war turmoil that shifted the company's focus more firmly towards the motor industry.
Development in the 1950s was rapid. The company established overseas offices in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia early in the decade, and moved into industrial vehicles with the launch of a forklift truck in 1956. But the real step forward came in 1957 with the development of the Toyopet Crown automobile, the first model designed for export to the world's largest car market, America. Toyota Motor Sales USA was formed in 1958, and operations were quickly established in Brazil, Australia and South Africa in the years that followed. A UK office was founded in 1965. In fact the Crown was a failure in the US, designed for the compact Japanese environment rather than the wide-open spaces of the US. But Toyota refused to give up, and the Corolla, launched in 1968, was an enormous success, allowing Toyota to displace VW as America's #1 auto importer by 1975. From 1967 to 1982 the company was led by Eiji Toyoda, nephew of founder Sakichi Toyoda, and it was he who spearheaded its expansion into international markets.
Toyota spread around the world over the following years. In 1984, a joint venture was formed with General Motors, New United Motor Manufacturing, to build Toyotas in the US. A similar, but short-lived, operation was formed in Australia four years later. To broaden their range, the company launched its Lexus line of luxury cars in 1987 and in 1992 Toyota established the Duo sales operation to market Volkswagen and Audi cars in Japan. Toyota established another joint venture with General Motors in 1999 to develop environmentally friendly fuel cells to replace petrol, and launched Toyota Mapmaster to develop computerised car navigation systems.
The group pushed into electric cars with the full launch of the Prius, a hybrid "gas-electric" car competitive with conventional automobiles but twice as fuel efficient. Launched in Japan in 1997, it was rolled out globally from 2000. The Vitz, which launched in Europe in 1999 as the Yaris, was the company's bid in the ultra-compact car market. Also in 1999, the group launched an ambitious consumer project in Japan, forming an alliance with other manufacturers including Panasonic to launch separate products under a shared brand, WiLL. Toyota was the driving force behind the project launching the stylish WiLL Vi sub-compact car in 2000. Two further models followed, the five-door, five-seat WiLL VS in 2001, followed by the WiLL Cypha in 2002, a car with email and internet access facilities built-in. The project was eventually discontinued in 2004.
Meanwhile the company also began aggressively diversifying its business in Japan. In 2000, Toyota acquired a 5% stake in Yamaha Motor, a subsidiary of piano manufacturer Yamaha Corporation, for Y10.5bn ($96m); and increased its stake in ailing Hino to almost 34%. Japanese truck sales plummeted 28% in 1998, and Hino notched up losses of Y35bn ($326m). In April that year Toyota agreed to invest Y120bn ($1.13bn) in KDDI, a new Japanese telecoms group created by the merger of its IDO subsidiary with DDI and KDD. At the same time Toyota announced it would join with railway and cable TV operator Tokyu Corp and Sony to provide an internet service for broadband networks.
Meanwhile Hino continued to struggle. Toyota boosted its shareholding to over 50% in 2001 and installed one of its own executives as the company's President. Meanwhile the group formed a joint venture with PSA Peugeot Citroen, based in the Czech Republic, to manufacture small cars for launch in 2005. In 2002 the group agreed a joint venture with China's leading motor manufacturer First Automobile Works (FAW) to produce up to 400,000 cars annually by 2010.
Toyota announced an overhaul of its senior management team in early 2005. Fujio Cho, regarded as the architect of the group's aggressive expansion since 2000, announced his retirement from day-to-day management mid-2005. In a highly uncharacteristic situation for Toyota, the company was accused in 2006 of covering up vehicle defects and was ordered by Japan's Transport Ministry to improve recall procedures. The company had already recalled more than 1m vehicles in Japan, and also issued a recall of 400,000 SUVs in the US. See full profile for current activities
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