Toyota finally toppled General Motors to become the world's biggest carmaker in 2008. Its namesake brand was already the global top-seller, a position it still holds. However, a series of problems, not least the tragic 2011 Japanese earthquake, caused group sales to slump alarmingly at the turn of the decade. Toyota regained the #1 position once again in 2012, before being overtaken in turn by Volkswagen Group in 2016. The company retains a firm grip on its home country with controlling stakes in fellow carmaker Daihatsu and leading truck manufacturer Hino, and combined market share which hit 45% in the year to 2017. 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 was 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 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."
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jun 2018: Toyota named Sevilay Gokkaya, previously its marketing director for Germany, as the new regional head of marketing and brand communications across Europe, based out of Brussels. She is replaced at Toyota Germany by Klaus Kroppa.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Apr 2018: Ads of the Week: "The Drive Happy Project". Toyota's advertising in Australia and especially New Zealand has long been noted for an unusual, often slightly dark sense of humour, courtesy of long-standing lead agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Remember the couple who try to assassinate one another in the morning in order to be first out of the house to drive the new Toyota to work? Or the cat that keeps on injuring itself to get a ride to the vet in the family car? Here's the latest from Saatchi NZ, to promote the new Drive Happy promotion, which is designed to take the stress out of buying a new car. There's some delightful character design, straight out JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts series, but here relocated to the far more mundane environment of Kiwi suburbia.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Feb 2018: Ads of the Week: "As I Really Am". Though they don't necessarily tie in with the upcoming Winter Games, Toyota is brandishing its credentials as a top-tier sponsor with a collection of Olympics-themed films from what is now its lead agency across Europe, The&Partnership (formerly CHI & Partners). This Italian spot is astonishing, featuring Paralympic wheelchair fencing star Bebe Vio, who battled an appalling childhood illness to become a global champion at her chosen sport. As an able-bodied child, she had already developed a love of fencing before she fell severely ill with meningitis. Ensuing complications caused the loss of all four limbs. Her subsequent fight-back makes for an extraordinary and inspiring story.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Jan 2018: Volkswagen Group widened its lead as the world's biggest carmaker in 2017, with sales rising almost 4% to 10.41m cars and trucks. Toyota held 2nd place at 10.16m, but faces a growing threat from its Franco-Japanese rival. The addition of Mitsubishi to the Renault-Nissan Alliance puts that group close behind at 10.12m units. Hyundai Kia delivered the worst performance of any leading manufacturer, with sales down almost 9%, but held on to 4th place; General Motors stayed in the 5th spot, despite the sale of Opel/Vauxhall to PSA. Ford, Honda, FCA, PSA and Suzuki rounded out the remaining places in the Top Ten. In terms of individual brands, Toyota was safe in 1st place at 8.71m cars, ahead of VW at 6.83m units and Ford's 6.17m. However, Honda powered up two places to 5th position as a result of an 8% surge in sales, overtaking countrymate Nissan (up 4%), Hyundai slumped to 6th. Chevrolet, Kia, Renault and Mercedes rounded out the Top Ten.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The world's #1 car. Not bad for what is still in some ways a family firm. Founded by patriarch Sakichi Toyoda in 1918, it is still led 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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