For most Americans with only the dimmest recollections of automotive misfits like the Rocky and the Charade, it’s hard to imagine the Daihatsu Motor Company in anything but a steep decline (indeed, you may be surprised it still exists).  But far from death’s door, the Japanese automaker has been thriving in its absence from North American shores— at least as of late.

Despite a relatively static domestic market, Toyota-controlled DMC has designs on increasing sales 20 percent worldwide in 2006, to almost 1.4 million units (including Toyota-badged products).  The kei-car manufacturer is planning on an optimistic 4.5 percent increase in sales on the home front, and almost 11 percent abroad.

But it won’t be easy. Growing competition inside Japan and from other Asian nations will threaten the company’s ability to find success in growing markets like India and China.

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