Nobody (except for lawyers who desperately try to keep the fire burning) talks about Toyota SUA anymore. No ghosts were found in any machines. The matter doesn’t make the news anymore, and customer complaints suddenly dropped by 80 percent. However, the witch-hunt against GM’s Japanese nemesis, launched by GM’s owner, the U.S. government, had its effect: According to Automotive News [sub] data, Toyota’s market share in the U.S. dropped by 1.5 percent compared to September 2009. That’s a lot when you drop from 16.9 percent to 15.3 percent. Ironically, the bigger ward of the U.S. government, GM, did not pick up those sales. They lost 2.8 percent. The winners were Ford (+ 1.4 percent), and would you believe it Chrysler (+2.1 percent).
After a lot of bowing and apologizing, Toyota now goes on the counter offensive.
Toyota rallied the troops at a dealer convention in Las Vegas and handed out new marching orders. More than a thousand dealers attended.
- Annual sales in the U.S. are supposed to reach two million units by 2013, an increase of 30 percent, The Nikkei [sub] was told by people who were at the conference.
- Yoshi Inaba, president of the U.S. operations, showed dealers two new versions of its Prius hybrid. They will be introduced in the U.S. before the end of 2012. The new versions include a subcompact that is smaller than the current Prius hatchback and about the size of Toyota’s Yaris subcompact. The other looks like a small sport-utility vehicle and has 50 percent more interior and cargo space than the existing Prius model. A mild plug-in that will go about 13 miles on the battery before the engine kicks in, should also be available in 2012. Toyota appears to go ahead with its plans to make “Prius” a subbrand. In a separate announcement, Toyota said that cumulative global sales of the Prius hybrid went past the 2 million mark at the end of September.
- Speaking of subbrands, Toyota told dealers that they will reviving the rather lame youth-oriented Scion brand, which will receive an injection of new product. One of them is the long-awaited production version of its FT-86 concept car, along with the already-announced Scion iQ subcompact.
- The free two-year, 25,0000-mile scheduled maintenance program which was started as an incentive program in March, is becoming factory standard. It now applies to all future sales of Toyota and Scion models. According to Automotive News [sub], the “Toyota Care” and “Scion Service Boost” plans will offer free factory scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. 73 percent of the customers with the support service said it improved their confidence in Toyota.
And that’s exactly what Toyota needs, regained confidence. A smear campaign can be totally unfounded, but some dirt always sticks. And it takes a long time to get rid of it. Nobody knows that better than the spinmeisters in Washington.
|U.S. CAR AND LIGHT-TRUCK SALES, SEPTEMBER 2010|
|General Motors Co.||18.0%||20.9%||-2.8%|
|Ford Motor Co.||16.7%||15.3%||1.4%|
|Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.||15.3%||16.9%||-1.5%|
|American Honda Motor Co.||10.2%||10.4%||-0.2%|
|Nissan North America||7.7%||7.4%||0.3%|
|Volkswagen Group of America||2.9%||3.3%||-0.4%|
|Jaguar Land Rover N.A.||0.4%||0.4%||-0.1%|
Data courtesy Automotive News [sub]