By on March 25, 2011

Japan’s largest and second largest automakers are worlds apart. Last year, Nissan made less than half of the cars the world’s number one, Toyota produced. Looking at the February results of both, we see a Goliath that is slowing down and a David that is revving up mightily. What’s more, we see a Goliath that is heavily exposed to the destruction in Japan, and a David that had moved most of his production abroad, well before the Flood. Let’s compare David and Goliath.

This comparison is based on February 2011 production and sales data emailed to TTAC today by Toyota and Nissan. The Toyota press release is available here. The Nissan press release is available here. For Toyota, we will be using the Toyota Motor Corp group data, including Daihatsu and Hino. If no time period is given, the data refer to February 2011. A month does not a year make. However, this February probably was the last “normal” month you will see in the Japanese car industry for a while. Let’s see how the two embark on the road to the great unknown.

In February, Toyota’s worldwide production fell 2.5 percent to 761,248 units. Nissan’s global production increased 21.7 percent to 350,093 units, an all-time record for the month of February.

Japanese production was down for both, reflecting the double-digit contraction of the Japanese domestic market. Toyota’s Japanese production dropped 7.4 percent to 349,900 units. Nissan’s production in Japan decreased 3.8 percent to 93,432 units.

Exports from Japan rose 5.3 percent to 170,075 units for Toyota, first increase in two months . Nissan’s exports in February increased 7.8 percent to 54,215 units. Nissan’s exports to North America increased 41.5 percent, to Europe 51.8 percent.

Here is probably the most important metric at the moment and in the following months when all manufacturers, and especially the Japanese are trying to come to grips with the disaster in Miyagi:

Toyota has 49 percent of its global production of 716,248 units in Japan, 51 percent of the production is overseas. Nissan has 27 percent of its global production of 350,093 units in Japan, 73 percent is overseas. Neither of them will escape the Japanese parts paralysis unscathed. At least on a spreadsheet, Nissan is in a better position that its Goliath rival. As always, the devil is in the details.

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39 Comments on “David And Goliath: A Comparison Of Nissan And Toyota...”


  • avatar

    Looks good for Nissan.
    They deserve to be on top anyway.

  • avatar

    it would be interesting to see how Honda lines up as well.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I went to a Bob Evans restaurant with my 70 year old mother. She likes the place. So do others in her age bracket. Bob Evans has Early Bird specials and caters to these folks. These restaurants have about a dozen handicapped accessible parking places nearest to the entrance.

    The parking lot at Bob Evans is filled with Toyotas. When the handicapped parking places are filled with Toyotas, then Toyotas begin to block the lot entrances dropping senior diners off as close to the entrance as possible. Woe to anyone parking anywhere near the entrance of a Bob Evans restaurant, because you will find yourself hemmed in by Toyotas and their ancient drivers and immobile occupants.

    That said, Toyota has become the default auto choice of millions of American drivers. When you said “Japanese”, they think “Toyota”. Some of them may consider Lexus, but I would bet one of Bob Evan’s pre-chewed oatmeal breakfasts that geezers are flocking to Toyotas over any other Japanese auto brand and not considering any other auto brand.

    So, as long as these folks have their oxygen tanks and a driver’s license, they will be dropping by Toyota dealers and buying their new Corollas, Camrys, Prius, and Avalons. We are seeing an entire generation of grizzled gray haired auto buyers shoving their walkers to Toyotas faster than you can say, “free Metamucil with each prune juice purchase!”.

    So, tsumani be damned, your grandparents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents are doing to spend the last of their auto dollars drooling in a Toyota instead of a Nissan.

    These two car companies have very different demographics and I do not see 90 year olds driving an Altima or Maxima. They are in Toyotas!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, but you do see a lot of older folks in Versas and Sentras, while you don’t see the elderly in Yarises, Matrixes (sorta) or Siennas.**  But yes, your general point stands: Toyota makes cars that appeal to the kind of people who have the money to buy new cars: the (relatively) old.
       
      ** Interestingly, during the SUA crisis, incident frequency for the Yaris and Sienna—the only Toyotas bought in quantity by people under 50—was quite low.  Funny, that.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      VanillaDude: At 60 years of age, some of what you wrote makes me cringe and wince and want to tell you to “get off my lawn”!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Don’t worry Zachman, I see more geezers in Toyotas and more young punks in Impalas.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The key is not to have the elderly (defined as those who are roughly 55 years of age or older) constitute most or nearly all of your customers.

      When I was a boy, there were a fair number of older people who bought Buick Electras and LeSabres and Oldsmobile Delta 88s and Ninety-Eights. That made sense - they had the money to pay for them. But lots of younger people bought Regals, Centurys and Cutlass Supremes.

      As a result, both Buick and Oldsmobile had the image of cars older people bought because they finally had the money to afford one, as opposed to the image they gained in the 1990s – they were cars older people bought because only they could possibly want one. Primarily because the younger folk who would have bought a Regal or Cutlass in the 1970s or early 1980s had migrated to one of the near-luxury Japanese models.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Dan, that makes me feel much, much better! Man, I intend to never be a part of the crowd described above.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey bud, not all senior citizens drive Toyota’s.  I know one who just paid cash for a 2011 Lincoln.  Another paid cash for a Ford Flex.  I’ve seen several in the new Hyundai Sonata.  Several are in the Ford Taurus. Some are in Chevy’s.  And some in Accord’s.  Then a few are in Toyota’s.  I work at a grocery store and see it every day. I’m pushing 70 and I drive a Ford Ranger. I wouldn’t own a Toyota if they gave it to me. I’d trade it for another Ford. Remember, It’s not nice to make fun of the older set. After all, you’ll be one some day……maybe!

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

       
      I see a lot of older folks here in either traditional American brands (Buick, Lincoln) or whatever’s cheapest (Kia, G5, Cobalt, Hyundai).  Folks with hip problems really seem to favor Nissan Cubes, too.   I don’t doubt that there are a lot of elderly driving Toyotas, but the majority?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I see more geezers in Toyotas and more young punks in Impalas.

      That’s because the young punks pick up the Impalas on the cheap at estate sales!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Folks with hip problems really seem to favor Nissan Cubes, too.

      That, the Soul and the Rondo.  Or, if they’re well-off, the Venza.  But the Cube is special: I’m quite tall and it’s about the only car I can step into like a normal person.  Most cars I need to get into seat first, then arms, then legs because I can’t get past the steering wheel on step-in.  Not so the Cube.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      The Rondo still lives in Canada? I suppose it became a fleet queen stateside, then withdrawn after MY2010.

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    Nissan yesterday said it is considering moving production of its VQ V-6 engines to its Decherd, Tenn., powertrain assembly plant to make up for lost production at its facility in hard-hit Iwaki, Japan.  

    The Iwaki facility is Nissan’s only facility in Japan still offline after a 9.0 earthquake rocked the nation’s east coast on March 11. The automaker noted that its Oppama, Tochigi, Kyushu, Yokohama, Nissan Shatai and Nissan Shatai Kyushu facilities are producing vehicles and parts while supply inventories last.

    http://www.industryweek.com/articles/nissan_mulls_shifting_some_production_to_north_america_24245.aspx

  • avatar

    I really feel like Toyota is slipping. They need to get some interesting cars on the road I’m really interested to see how the FT-86 comes out, where it’ll be priced, etc.
    But I don’t think it’ll be Nissan that takes them down. Yeah, there are a lot of factories in Japan, but Toyota owners are a loyal bunch. And yeah, the average age of a Toyota buyer is still going up, but these cars are often passed down through an entire family. I know there was a commercial about it, but I personally knew people like that, passing a Camry or Corolla down through the whole family.
    What’s hurting Toyota, and a lot of automakers, is that there’s a lot of unemployed or underemployed young people. Something like 80% of people 24 and under are living at home with their parents (as I was I until six months ago). You underestimate the bad taste the Big Three left in the mouths of a lot of people, and many of my peers won’t even consider an American car.
    Most Toyota buyers will wait, even if production slows or stops. What’s going to hurt Toyota is their lack of exciting, youthful cars. The Scion brand has been neglected and abused as bad as Ford manhandled Mercury, and if Toyota suddenly finds themselves with an average buyer age north of 60, well, those Baby Boomers aren’t going to keep buying cars forever.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I really feel like Toyota is slipping. They need to get some interesting cars on the road I’m really interested to see how the FT-86 comes out, where it’ll be priced, etc.

      I strongly disagree with this.  Toyota doesn’t need to make interesting cars in order to sell.  They saw their greatest increases in sales and marketshare by doing precisely the opposite: making cars that are easy, efficient, accessibly and inexpensive to own, and refining that formula mercilessly.  Most people don’t want interesting or dynamic: they want what works.

      It plays well, especially in the blogosphere, to say they need a new Supra or whatever, but in truth what they need to do is keep making Corollas and Camrys that don’t let their owners down.

      Even young people “get” this; they’re buying used Corollas, Matrixes, Siennas and Camrys.  Scion is a decent attempt to get the youth market, but you’re right that the young have no money, and it’s not a growth strategy to chase underemployed and over-extended consumers.  Better to concentrate on long-term quality and/or employ a good CPO program because those young buyers whom you hope to get into new cars when they’re (maybe) out of debt are buying off-lease or hand-me-downs now, and better a hand-me-down Camry or Corolla, from Toyota’s perspective.

    • 0 avatar

      Think about it like this.
      Toyota was making and selling boring-yet-reliable automobiles at a time when the Big Three were making boring-yet-UNRELIABLE automobiles, and they basically surrendered the small-and-midsize car segment to the Japanese and concentrated on selling trucks and SUV’s. At least that is how I see it. In the process, Toyota became the world’s #1 automaker.
      But now we’re hitting something of a small car renaissance, and it isn’t just the Big Three that Toyota has to worry about. Hyundai is making some excellent cars, and VW seems hellbent on taking the #1 automaker crown. Now everybody and their mother is rushing to build the best looking, most affordable small car, as well as the next hybrid or EV.
      I agree with you that Toyota became #1 by making boring cars. And I stand by my statement that Toyota owners are a loyal lot. But it takes time to create an image, and even longer to change one. If Toyota doesn’t start attracting younger buyers OUTSIDE of those already loyal to the brand though, they will be in trouble down the road. And I just don’t think anything in Toyota’s lineup (except the Lexus LFA) is going to convert someone who is loyal to say, Ford or VW, when those and other brands are putting out some top-notch automobiles.
      On the topic at hand though, I think Nissan is going to have problems of their own if the Leaf doesn’t take off like they think it will. Or they could be in a perfect position to hop right by Toyota in five years if the EV gambit pays off.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Yeah, VanillaDude’s comments here do come across as the typical thinks-he-knows-more-than-he-actually-does kind of mentality. It has the air of someone who has an exaggerated sense of their own importance, and a general disregard for the value of age. Oh well.
     
    Don’t forget that a lot of these older Toyota owners may also be expressing their brand loyalty as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them owned Toyotas when they were younger and, because they had a good experience with them (in terms of reliability and such), they keep going back to what they know and trust. There’s nothing wrong with that.
     
    That said, I don’t know if I qualify as a ‘geezer’ yet (I’m still 50), but I just came home from test driving the Juke, and I have to say it is a very fun vehicle to drive. Both my wife and I enjoyed it immensely. We didn’t even bother going to the Toyota lot because they have nothing there that we’re really interested in within the same price point. Nevertheless, I can still fully understand and respect why so many people would choose a Toyota instead. They do what they do very well.
     
    From the sounds it if, this disaster could hit Toyota particularly hard. It will be interesting to see how well they can adapt to these kinds of circumstances.

    (As an aside, I also test drive the new 2012 Focus Se Hatchback, and I have to say that this is a very, very fine compact automobile.)

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Oh, I always get a kick out of VanillaDude‘s comments, as I take them firmly tongue-in-cheek! I do agree with you, as for owner-loyalty. Toyota has certainly earned it and is being rewarded for their past reliability. If and when I buy another car, I have no idea what I will consider, but Chevy may be at the top thus far. It all depends how long I work and how long my Impala will last. Toyota could all of a sudden come back with a total revamp of their line up with exciting(?) cars. Time will tell. What Chris DeMorro wrote above is indeed chilling about young people’s income level and prospects for the future. The future ain’t bright enough to wear shades anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      If you would be so kind; which did you prefer the Juke or the Focus?  Was either of them a stick?

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I test drove the CVT Juke and auto Focus (there was only one of each on their respective lots).
       
      The Juke and the Focus were two very different beasts. The Juke is kind of like a puppy that just wants to play, while the Focus seemed much more refined, especially for a compact, and yet was capable of playing hard as well. The ride quality on the Focus was far better than the Juke, particularly over frost damaged city roads. Both vehicles handled very well. The auto on the Focus was very smooth, and the CVT on the Juke was a little noisy, but not as bad as I thought it would be (when compared with the Cube we tested a couple of years ago). The Juke seemed to have better jump, but the Focus was pretty good nonetheless. The Focus would easily be the better choice for a long road trip, while still being a very enjoyable vehicle to drive. The Juke is just plain fun to drive, but it’s rougher ride may not be for everyone.

      As to which one I prefer, I honestly don’t know. The Juke is very appealing in a lot of ways. It’s slightly raised height make it easier for me to get in and out when my back acts up, and it would suit my particular purposes as a daily commuter very well, but it takes premium fuel and its mileage ratings are okay (which makes me a little concerned about long-term ownership costs). The Focus on the other hand, felt both sporty and refined, will likely get great gas mileage on regular fuel, but is a little harder to stoop into (much like my current Jetta Wagon) and isn’t as ‘quirky’ as the Juke (and I tend to like quirky). I am honestly torn, but luckily don’t have to make a decision about this for a while yet.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Juke and how fun to drive it is, but I’m also enamored of the Focus, and consider myself a Ford boy at heart.  Thankfully, I don’t need to buy anything for a while either.

  • avatar
    whisperquiet

    I know lots of people who will only consider a Toyota as their next car.  Personally, I think that Toyota has built some of the most boring cars known to mankind in the last 10 years or so.  I’ve only owned one Toyota (1990 Supra) in my forty years of driving and don’t see a new Honda or Toyota as my next car.  I’ve been a lifelong fan of Honda having owned about 20 new Honda bikes and 10 Honda cars, but they have become fat and lazy recently.  The Honda motorcycle line is DOA.
    Hyundai is the new Honda and Nissan still builds cars that I am interested in………won’t touch a GM or Chrysler for any amount of money.
     

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Toyotas have never really been exciting, save for rare, low-volume exceptions like the AE86 Corolla, TT Supra or certain Celicas (the All-Trac, the last GT-S).  And it doesn’t matter because they’ve sold and sold well.  Those few exciting Toyotas haven’t really sold enough to justify their existence.  I don’t know where these magical exciting Toyotas of yesteryear were, but the Corollas, Camrys and Cressidas of yore were not at all “fun”.
       
      Never mind that other cars in this segment are also boring.  Honda? dull. Ford?  Duller.  Hyundai?  Yep, snoozer.  Even Mazda’s 3 and 6, in the trims most people buy, aren’t much more fun to drive than your average Toyota.  Every mainstream car is “dull” because, frankly, dull is what people want.
       
      Note that some marques still sell moderately exciting cars, but those sales are flat year-over-year and, likely, don’t make much net margin anyway.  This is the case with Honda, who still sells, say, the Fit, or Mazda, who will sell you a 2, Miata or Speed3.

    • 0 avatar

      The difference between the dull Hondas, Fords, and Mazdas is that all of those companies offer sedan buyers the OPTION of something a little hotter.  The Civic Si Sedan, Ford Fusion Sport, and Mazdaspeed 6. All Toyota has to do is offer a turbocharged Corolla or Camry and they’d be all set. But they don’t, and I don’t understand why.
      The other thing is that automakers make a bigger profit off of those cars with more bells and whistles. A Ford Fusion Sport is like $10k more than a normal Fusion, and Ford’s marking up every extra item they’re selling you, from the better suspension to the premium interior. And that’s before you start checking off the option list.
      Offering your customers something sportier means giving yourself a chance to make more money off of those customers, even if its only a small percentage.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Even if I put my Detroit fan boy,pro domestic view aside, I still find the Toyotas goofy looking and bland. Nissan at least has some style.

    BTW …I’m a 57 year old,that facing economic realities, has bought his last new car. If I outlast my Impala,this old boomer will buy used.

  • avatar

    I bust my ass to tell the future of the car industry, and all you guys can discuss is oatmeal and Geritol?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Tangents are a bitch, ain’t they?

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Sorry Bertol. I did offer at least one comment related to the actual content of your article. It’s just that these tangents can sometimes take on a life of their own.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I found it interesting, in comparison to Nissan’s earlier attempt to match Toyota for volume and segment presence which had them at death’s door by the end of the ’90s.

      Wouldn’t mind having a diesel Nissan Crew someday.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Sorry, Bertel, it’s all VanillaDude’s fault, but it was fun piling on! For the record: I don’t get near Geritol, but eat oatmeal on occasion, but not while driving my Impala or MX5! There! I included a car comment! Hope that helps.

      Here’s a car question: Does Nissan participate in car shows anymore? They have not been represented at the Cincinnati auto show for a few years, now. Infiniti? Yes, they do.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Bertel, you’ve obviously never been a teacher. 

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    VanillaDude, near what city in Kentucky I this? :)

    Go to Columbus, Ohio, just south of Honda’s Marrysville facilities. Go to Parma, Ohio, just south of Cleveland and you’ll find some most rusted 10 year old Honda and Toyota’s along with mostly rusted Silverado. There are no Toyota pickups in northern Ohio and seldom see Ford F-150 as they fall to oxide cancer too.

    Funny how the US has been brainwashed into brand images.

    But as we’ve seen with bubbles they’ll grow until they pop. I guess the seniors in your area haven’t heard the news.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Man I love punking you people!

    Listen, the geezers in the Toyotas are going to continue buying them regardless of the tsunami. Old people are just not that into Nissans, except that golf-cart embarrassment known as the Cube. Today’s geezers were yesterday’s Baby Boomers who still think of themselves as young and drinking Pepsi. So, I love tweaking their gray beards and Botoxed foreheads by reminding them that they have become what they once thumbed their noses at – old!

    As to that Juke, they misspelled “joke”, unless Juke is the Japanese word for Aztek. Some Boomer bought one and parks it near my work downtown, and even the pidgeons are avoiding it as a toilet stop. The Juke is trying way too hard to be different in a sort of faux CV2 kind of way. It burns my eyes with it’s ugliness.

    Oh, yeah – back to Toyota. I think Toyota has so many geezers brainwashed into buying nothing but them, that they could raise the prices to mend all their factories, and the geezers will still cough up both a lung and the cash to plunk their Depend-covered arses into those seats.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “…And the hits just keep on coming!”

      Boy, am I enjoying this! How old are you, anyway? For the record, My brain still acts like I’m young, but my body says otherwise, but I do the best I can! When I drink soda, it’s Coke, not Pepsi. No ‘stach or beard, but hair is graying and never Botox! Speaking strictly for myself, I always valued those older than I for their experience and never fell for the “never trust anyone over 30″ baloney. Other than some of the music back then, I was in the service and spent most of my time and money on my car and never bought in to all the garbage that passed for “culture” at that time.

      Keep it up, though, as I laugh my head off every time you post something! You’re O.K. by me!

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      There are a a lot of boomers that are in better shape than many 20 somethings. The only exercise they get is using their thumbs to operate their X-Boxes. In the 2010 NYC Marathon, there were slightly more finishers in the 60-64 age group than finishers in the 20-24 group.  The fastest time in the 75-79 group was 3:33:55 and an 80 year old finished in 4:33.

  • avatar

    Hilarious tangents aside, I’m happy for Nissan. They have some interesting vehicles that I’d definitely consider over the more lardy and uninteresting offerings from their rivals.

  • avatar
    DaveA

    I would sort of agree with Vanilla actually.  I have pondered this myself.  It seems as if Toyota has picked up what GM used to be (at least figuratively), but of course with much better built yet boring cars too.  Here in W. CO. a lot of old folks (both old hippies and rednecks) drive Toyota trucks and cars (I have seen an NRA sticker on a Prius).  But Nissan seem to compete more with the VW crowd in sedans, but yet competes with Toyota, GM, and Ford in trucks and SUV’s.    

  • avatar
    BlackPope808

    Production may be overseas, but there is an unwritten,heavily spoken piece of advice that even the local Toyota monopoly salespeople tell their customers…DON’T BUY THE CAMRY THAT WAS MADE IN THE US…LOOK FOR THE “J” THAT STARTS THE VIN…the horror stories of ill fitting doors on Camry SE’s made in Kentucky…my own experience with my 2011 Sienna SE which has an interior that would be more fitting in a Yugo than a $30k+ van, peeling paint on the insides of the doors…


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