Toyota is definitely kicking butt, no doubt about it.
Another good article on the subject:
HONG KONG: Toyota surpassed General Motors in worldwide vehicle sales during the first three months of this year, marking the end of one of the longest runs of dominance in all of global industry and another milestone in America's long decline from unchallenged industrial pre-eminence.
Toyota announced Tuesday that its worldwide sales reached 2.35 million cars and trucks in the first quarter; GM had previously announced that its sales totaled 2.26 million vehicles in the first quarter.
GM swept past Ford in 1931 in the enormous U.S. market and in worldwide sales, and barely looked back for seven decades. But a combination of inattention to quality, poor labor relations, adverse regulatory decisions and a slowness to recognize the potential for small cars eroded GM's seemingly insurmountable lead starting in the mid-1960s.
Emerging from the ashes of Japan's defeat in World War II partly thanks to U.S. assistance during the Korean War, Toyota established itself through the 1970s and 1980s as the industry standard for quality and reliability. It has since built a reputation for technological leadership as well, most notably with the Prius and other hybrid cars.
Toyota took the worldwide lead in the first quarter as it stepped up sales in every major market. GM continued to gain market share in China, but is struggling in the United States and Europe and has never been able to gain a firm foothold in the Japanese market.
GM and Toyota spokesmen were equally reluctant Tuesday to portray themselves as engaged in a global car race for leadership. GM has been trying to emphasize its future as an international automaker - three-fifths of its sales are now outside the United States - and not on the storied greatness of its past.
"We're focused on providing the best cars and trucks for our customers all around the world," said John McDonald, a GM spokesman in Detroit. "We're not focused on a race."
Toyota has been leery of the attention, and often the criticism, that frequently come with being the biggest in any industry. It has frequently been the main target of trade restrictions in the United States and Europe, and this has made the company cautious of being seen as too large or too aggressive.
"We look at the results as simply a reflection of how our products are viewed favorably around the world," said Paul Nolasco, a company spokesman in Tokyo. "We don't just make them and push them out the door - we have a 'pull' system and we build them when they are ordered."
Industry analysts were bolder. "It is a historic moment" for Toyota, said Benjamin Asher of Automotive Resources Asia, which was acquired last year by J.D. Power & Associates. "Everyone was expecting it to assume the number one position, the question was when."
Yale Zhang, the director of greater-China vehicle forecasts for CSM Worldwide, an automotive consulting firm, said that while Toyota lags Volkswagen and GM in the fast-growing Chinese market now, it is on track to pull into the lead in 2013.
Toyota has lagged mainly because it has been slow to enter some segments of the market in China, as Chinese officials were wary of granting permission for Toyota to build factories in the 1990s given decades of Sino-Japanese rivalry. But Toyota is now expanding swiftly.
"It's pretty easy for Toyota in China given Toyota's brand image, the quality and the design of the cars," Zhang said.
General Motors has ruled the auto industry for so long that industry statisticians scrambled to figure out the precise quarters in which it last trailed another automaker. Comparing automakers' worldwide sales on anything less than an annual basis is a fairly recent phenomenon.
Ford opened its first plant outside North America in England in 1911, while GM expanded aggressively in the European market in the 1920s. But automakers had typically eschewed worldwide sales announcements until the last few years, announcing monthly and quarterly sales separately in each country instead.
This has changed as the Internet has improved communications and as automakers have begun forcing their far-flung operations to work closely together, instead of functioning as a series of separate fiefdoms.
Ford briefly overtook GM in American sales in July 1998, when a strike lasting nearly eight weeks at two GM parts factories in Flint, Michigan, triggered the shutdown of almost all of GM's assembly plants across North America. Ford also outpaced GM briefly in the autumn of 1970, when a 10-week national strike crippled GM's operations.
I really like the new Tundra, and I already saw a very affordable 3" lift for them. I'm going to wait another year or so and see if Ford puts a diesel in the F150 like they are rumored to be doing. Then it will be between a new or used 3/4 ton diesel or the Tundra. Anyone watch 24 on fox? They have had a Tundra in the last few episodes. Good product placement on Toyota's part.
Unfortunately Toyota's success is what's keeping them from building sports cars. There are a number of reasons for that:
1) They are growing so rapidly that their engineering resources are stretched thin. So it makes little sense to assign engineering resources to a sports car that may sell 30,000 units a year world wide as opposed to a car like say the Corolla that sells ~750,000 units a year world wide. As it is they pushed the US Corolla redesign out 1 year because they don't have the engineering resources and they sold more Corollas in 06 than 05 and 07 is already better than 06.
2) Toyota is also capacity constrained worldwide. Since it makes no sense to build a plant from scratch to build ~30,000 cars world wide max they would need a factory with extra capacity to build these cars. Right now they can't keep up with demand as it is.
3) Toyota doesn't need an "image" car the way GM (Vette), Ford (GT), Chrysler (Viper) or any other struggling automaker does. This sucks for us car enthusiasts as all 3 of those cars are flat out awesome yet we don't see an effort from the company that has the resources to once again build a sports car that trumps the competition the way the MKIV did.
There are some good signs for the future regarding the issues listed above:
1) Toyota is tapping into Subaru's engineering resources (Subaru was going to downsize their engineering resources in Japan prior to forming a partnership with Toyota) to develop cars/components. This will free up some of Toyota's engineering resources.
2) Toyota is utilizing untapped capacity at the Subaru plant in Indiana to build 100,000+ Camrys a year. They are hoping to reduce the number of Camrys being imported from Japan. If they free up capacity in Japan perhaps they can shuffle production around and find a way to use some of the extra capacity to build a Supra replacement. This is not as easy as it sounds as factories are often built for certain configurations (FWD only, or RWD only).
3) Lexus is supposed to come out with the LF-A as a halo car for Lexus.