Friday, January 23, 2004
It's official, but Toyota is now #2 in the world. What immediate effects will this have? Probably none. But the company whose psyche has been most badly damaged by this has been Ford.
It's my personal opinion that this is only a hiccup in the progression of Ford. When Nasser was head of Ford, it looked like the end for GM, with Ford almost taking the worldwide lead in automobiles. What happened? A year or so later, Ford had lost billions, and Nasser was out of a job. Things can change quickly in the auto industry.
There are cracks in the armor of Toyota. The average customer buying age of their product is high. Perhaps even too high. And recent announcements that they are not planning on making any new Supra are not helping the situation. Toyota is becoming the standard vehicle of America, and while that worked for the Big 3 for decades, in the end it came around to bite them. The bigger a company gets, and the more successful it gets, the more entrenched in doing things the old fashioned way it gets. A company that is sliding in sales, becomes desperate. They either fall by the wayside, or they regroup, recalculate, and re-examine.
Ford has an enormous advantage over Toyota. It has history. Toyota isn't a young company, but reliance on old standards like the Camry, and Celica, won't cut it. Toyota can never go retro-70s, and by dropping its only sporty name plate, the Supra, it drops the only pizzazz it had as a brand. Toyota should look to the woes of Honda right now; Honda dominated in the small car market, but its Civic is simply too bland and too much of the same thing to cut it any longer. Honda might have to temporarily drop the name, and totally reinvent itself in that segment. The same thing is going to happen to Toyota eventually. People are just going to get sick of the Camry, no matter how reliable, or how competent it is. They'll want to take a risk with a new brand, just to try something different. And when that happens, the American brands will be there...waiting.