Toyota finally toppled General Motors to become the world's biggest carmaker in 2008 (though it was itself overtaken by multibrand Volkswagen Group eight years later). Its namesake brand is still the global top-seller, even if the Covid pandemic depressed registrations for 2020, which slipped from 8.96m in 2019 to 7.87m vehicles, still more than 2m cars ahead of second-placed VW. The Corolla compact is the world's best selling passenger car at 1.13m units in 2020, while the RAV4 SUV holds 2nd place with 972k units, and the Camry midsize ranks 6th at 593k cars. Other important models are the Yaris small car (sales were up an astonishing 21% in 2020 to 418k), Highlander SUV and C-HR crossover. Toyota retains a firm grip on its home country with controlling stakes in fellow carmaker Daihatsu and leading truck manufacturer Hino, and a extraordinary combined market share of almost 46%. It also has strategic or equity alliances with countrymates Subaru, Suzuki and Isuzu. However, above all, Toyota is keen to establish itself as a global motor manufacturer not a Japanese exporter. Three-quarters of revenues are derived from international markets and 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 worked hard to shift the majority of its non-domestic production outside Japan. Its #2 car brand internationally is Lexus, originally developed in the US as a rival to German luxury cars and subsequently expanded around the globe. Never one to rest on its laurels, Toyota has consistently pushed into new areas, the most notable of which was its pioneering success with the Prius, the world's first mass-produced fuel-electric hybrid. A rare blot on Toyota's copybook came from 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. The business was originally founded in 1918 to make weaving looms but moved into automobile production in the 1930s. The founding family retain less than 2% of equity but are still closely involved in the business. Akio Toyoda, great-grandson of the founder, is CEO. Group revenues exceeded Y30 trillion (approx $272.5bn) for the first time in ye 2019, before slipping back slightly in ye 2020 to Y29.9tn ($275bn). Net income topped Y2tn at approx $19.0bn. Total group registrations in 2020, including Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, were 8.9m passenger cars. Automotive manufacturing accounts for 90% of group revenues, but the group also has interests in other areas, including financial services, insurance and even prefabricated housing.
Capsule checked 22nd January 2021
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Historical profile information for Toyota
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Nov 2020: "An Unbreakable Bond". Kiwis really are a breed apart. New Zealand's spectacular wide open spaces have somehow inspired a quirky dry sense of humour that doesn't quite exist anywhere else. Needless to say, in such a landscape, Toyota's rugged Hilux pickup is one of the top-selling vehicles. Now Saatchi & Saatchi NZ is celebrating the unbreakable bond between Kiwis and their Hilux, as well as their oddball spirit, with a set of character-rich films in which a group of drivers just happen to congregate in the middle of nowhere to shoot the breeze. "Pants are just long-sleeved shorts", "Cheese is really just a loaf of milk", and other words of wisdom.
Adbrands Daily Update 17th Sep 2020: Dentsu and Toyota are joining forces to establish a new marketing joint venture that will specialise in what is described as "marketing innovation, digital transformation and mobility business creation". It's not clear what precisely will be the scope of the new entity in either responsibility or geographical footprint. However, it will incorporate Toyota's existing Japanese marketing subsidiary Delphys in a new business two-thirds controlled the auto giant, with Dentsu as minority partner.
Adbrands Social Media 13th Mar 2019: "Tres Francais". The & Partnership may be a British agency, but everything else about this great new campaign for Toyota is French through and through. The Toyota Yaris has been made in Valenciennes since 2001, and just over a decade later became the first vehicle ever - ahead of Renault or Peugeot - to be granted the 'Origine France Garantie' stamp from the government, guaranteeing its French origins. You know what the French are like: that stamp of approval is of huge emotional importance to them. So in the same spirit, this ad too is 100% French: the locations, the set, all the props, the actors and all the production crew. Just not ownership of either the car or the agency... Formidable!
Adbrands Social Media 11th Feb 2019: "Move Ahead". The & Partnership have a new spot out for Toyota across Europe, designed to show how the new hybrid Corolla beats every other type of wheeled vehicle. (Even a horse and carriage? Well, duh!). There's a nice selection of vignettes for different automotive transport through the years. My only reservation might be that Benny Goodman's 1930s classic 'Sing Sing Sing' as a soundtrack is just so over-familiar. It's like the upbeat jazz equivalent to Willy Wonka's 'Pure Imagination', a backing track that must get wheeled out at least once a month by some ad somewhere in the world. That aside, this is a great little film.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: Toyota is investing $500m in a new partnership with Uber, whereby the latter's driverless technology will be combined with the Japanese company's own safety software and implanted in a fleet of Toyota minivans. These will then operate as part of the Uber ride-hailing service, though they will not be owned by Uber itself. Currently, Uber owns its own fleet of self-driving Volvo cars, but it has been moving away from this business model after one of its cars killed a pedestrian earlier this year. Uber also faces more stringent regulatory oversight as an operator of taxi services than as merely a technology provider. "I think there's going to be very large, multi-billion-dollar businesses to be built on fleet operations," said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of business development for strategic initiatives, but this is no longer part of Uber's own strategy. "Over time, Uber will transition from the business model we have with Volvo, where we are owning and operating our fleet, to this kind of partnership, where Uber is the technology provider."
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