Toyota fears backlash over US success

Toyotas don't always have the best looks or the best horsepower or the best driving characteristics, but customers seem to want the company's products the most anyway. They're winning share from other automakers and they're winning on the profit sheet. It's got to be fun right now being Toyota. Its biggest concerns lately are rising North American salaries due to outrageous bonuses due to outrageous profits and how to beat up on the competition without being a poor sport. The only real problem that the automaker is facing right now is that engine sludge issue that could end up costing the automaker billions, but if anybody can afford it, it's Toyota. Besides, nary a word has been spoken in the media about this huge issue, so it probably won't put too big a dent in their quality armor in the eyes of customers.

A presentation by Seiichi Sudo, president of Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing in North America, basically painted a blunt picture of his company's success. We're winning, our competitors are jealous, and we are now the de facto leaders of the auto industry. No complaints here. GM or Ford or Nissan will tell you that Toyota is the benchmark, so that makes them the leader. One look at the new Tundra shows that Toyota isn't just trying to win, it's trying to get the competition to tap out. That doesn't mean that the Tundra is better than the F-150, Silverado, or Ram, but it might very well take sales away from those trucks anyway.

[Source: Free Press]

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Competitors are upset about the artificially suppressed Yen and point to it as the main reason Toyota is winning. It's hard enough to have a legacy cost imbalance vs. Toyota that that can total $1,500 or more, the Yen is giving Toyota ANOTHER $1,000 (the domestics say that number can be as high as $4,000). Couple that with the fact that most Toyota's are purchased for a higher price than the comparable domestic (after rebates), then you're looking at a profit jackpot for one automaker and losses here at home.

Toyota may have some issues with the newly Democrat-controlled congress, but any legislation that supports a tariff or penalty for a weak Yen would surely be vetoed. President Bush has been on record stating that he thinks its a great thing that foreign governments would artificially weaken their currency just so they can sell products cheaper here in the US (although Toyotas definitely aren't cheaper). His theory is that the customers win with that equation. Right or wrong, congress would need to swing a lot of Republicans if Bush does veto. That probably won't happen.

Other acknowledgments that the document had included not enough minority suppliers and vehicles that are made with more foreign parts than North American. Toyota may be cognizant of these facts, but the buying public here in North America or anywhere else in the world doesn't seem to care. They're the ones that count.

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