By on June 1, 2009

“It’s not something we would bring up on our own, and we don’t know enough about the restructuring plan,” Toyota’s President Katsuaki Watanabe told a small group of reporters, one of them writing for Reuters. Ever so polite, they would never suggest something like that on their own. But . . . “If some talk about supporting GM comes up, we would like to consider it earnestly.” Fritz Henderson, two magic words: Tasukete kudasai. Help me, please.

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24 Comments on “Toyota to GM: “Need Help? Say the Magic Word.”...”


  • avatar
    Cashmoney

    Damn. If only their offer had come 10-15 years ago. Of course, GM management would probably have been too stupid/arrogant to accept help.

  • avatar
    menno

    Let’s face it. Toyota COULD tool up the NUMMI plant with the prior generation Prius (still in production for Japanese consumption, in price competition with the new Honda Insight), slap some new sheetmetal around it (the chassis pan is distantly related to the Toyota Avensis line, which also was just replaced). The prior gen Avensis tooling could be salvaged from the UK, put on a ship, sent through the Panama Canal and could be in California in a matter of months.

    The “new Chevrolet Volt” gas-electric hybrid could be in production within 6-8 months, as a guess.

    It’d retail in the $22-25k price range, almost 1/2 the projected price of the GM engineered plug-in Volt.

    And once the plug-in hybrid technology from Toyota is ready, GM could buy into that (license it) too.

    The prior gen Avensis was available as a 5 door hatchback, 4 door sedan and 5 door station wagon.

    If I were the New GM, that’s what I’d do. But then again, that’s all a logical thing to do.

    So of course, they won’t do it.

    Which sums up how GM got into the position they are in.

    BTW, Cashmoney? GM “did” get help from Toyota starting about that timeframe. The NUMMI joint venture in California started building Toyota Corollas in drag (badged as Geo then as Chevrolet then lately as Pontiac Vibe). It’s not Toyota’s fault that GM would not / could not learn from their partner. Lord knows, I’ve read many things indicating that GM executives all fired up with new knowledge tried to impart this knowledge within the mother ship and totally failed. Every time. As in Epic Failure. As in GM is now bankrupt.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    This article has just reminded me of another possible fallout of GM’s bankruptcy.

    Toyota was always scared of GM filing, because they believed there would be an “pro-american” backlash with Toyota as the poster-child.

    Personally, I thought Toyota were being paranoid, but maybe we’ll see?

    As for Toyota, I don’t know why they’re even acknowledging GM’s bankruptcy. Just stay quiet! What good can come from it? It could even be seen as provocative. What help could Toyota give GM? HSD? GM already have their own hybrid system. Maybe Toyota could help them develop a costcutting ethos without compromising quality?

    Menno

    using NUMMI is a good idea but surely he whole point of NUMMI was for GM to learn from Toyota? If they haven’t learnt anything from NUMMI by now, what chance have they got of learning anything now?

    I like your idea of (effectively) an Avensis hybrid, but I think Toyota are already working on hybridising every car in their line-up.

    So, in effect, Toyota’s gift to GM would be an old generation hybrid system on an old generation car. GM may feel a little insulted!

  • avatar

    Cashmoney

    You may recall that Rick Wagoner flew to Japan a few years ago to meet with Toyota. We never learned the substance of those meetings, but, at the time, TTAC speculated that GM might be cutting a deal on hybrids.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Katsuaki Watanabe, master of the subtle insult.

  • avatar

    Henderson just said in the press conference he wants to get rid of NUMMI.
    I suppose GM’s share will be sold to Toyota.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    When reading this title I had a mental image of a prius pinning down an F-150 yelling ‘say uncle!’

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    That’s pretty good. The best part of GMBK is that it takes all the wind out of the tinfoil hat contingent’s belief that GM and Big Oil are in cahoots.

    Exxon/Mobil could “buy” all of GM with a two weeks worth of profits.

    The oil companies know how to get money out of holes in the ground. They also know when a hole in the ground becomes something you throw money into, and it won’t come back.

    Oddly enough, it appears that the government doesn’t know this, and that the NYTimes only figured it out last week.

  • avatar
    Cashmoney

    I’m aware of the GM/Toyota JV. My brother prides himself on having saved tons of money by accepting a GM badge on his Toyota.

    I just clicked the Reuters links and see that he was talking mainly about keeping their JV running during BK.

    Before I read the link, I took his offer to be more along the lines of let’s-show-GM-how-a-real-car-company-operates.

    Which, God, knows, is an offer GM could have benefited from.

  • avatar
    menno

    Katie, my thinking was that Toyota would be willing to part with the recently replaced Avensis dies (“excess to requirements”) at a very low price.

    The car should be modern & safe enough to crash well, and easily be certified for the US/Canada.

    The Avensis was never sold here (except as a reskinned 2 door Scion tC coupe, built in Japan on the same chassis-pan or platform). So the car would not even look “older” to American and Canadian buyers.

    I was hopeful that my government would not go down the route of throwing money down a sewer-pit, but now that they are, I was rather hopeful that such suggestions could limit the amount of money they’d have to crank off the printing-presses to do it all….

    Speaking of which, why is it called “inflation” when a government prints excess money, diluting the value of what’s already out there; and “counterfeiting” if one does it in one’s basement?

    If GM is no longer selling Pontiacs and NUMMI is currently only building Pontiac Vibe cars for GM, then it stands to reason that GM should get out of NUMMI (if they haven’t brains enough to cut a deal for hybrids as I’ve mentioned).

    I’m sure that Toyota has the spare change to send to GM in order to buy up 50% of one California factory…. probably in their couch.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    I can’t see Toyota keeping NUMMI open without GM. None of their other plants have the UAW in them. They could move production to a non-union facility that has slow selling models.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Frank Lowe to Alan Parker, upon seeing the latters movie about Dr. Kellogg.
    “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    There are genuine offers of assistance, and then there are carefully worded insults.

    Let’s see how this one turns out.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Selling a reskinned previous-gen Toyota hybrid as an American-made Chevy for $22k is a brilliant idea. The “Volt” would eat the Fusion Hybrid’s overpriced (and made in Mexico) lunch and be the darling of the domestic industry. And the government could fall all over themselves crowing about forcing big, bad GM to go green.

    All it would cost is GM’s dignity for giving up and licensing old tech from a hated rival.

  • avatar
    paulie

    menno

    I just read where the Volt actually is being manufacrued now, but as pre-production.
    I think such would show it is much further along than 6 to 8 months.

  • avatar

    My money is on carefully crafted insult.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Toyota fears Americans blaming them for GM’s demise…They always have.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    NUMMI makes the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe. I assume that it is heading towards a shutdown.

    More to the point, I think that the support Watanabe-sama is referring to is the role of the kaishakunin who administers the coup de grâce when a samurai commits seppuku.

  • avatar
    charly

    Menno, your plan sounds like the plan executed by SEAT pre VW, communistic FSO, Darcia & Lada, and the Iranian, Egyptian, Indian and Turkish car companies did. The reason why this is a bad plan maybe obvious if you look at its previous succes.

    PS Daewoo did this to so it can be succesfull.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Selling a reskinned previous-gen Toyota hybrid as an American-made Chevy for $22k is a brilliant idea. The “Volt” would eat the Fusion Hybrid’s overpriced (and made in Mexico) lunch and be the darling of the domestic industry. And the government could fall all over themselves crowing about forcing big, bad GM to go green.

    That sounds about as brilliant as selling a reskinned Matrix as a Pontiac Vibe, or a reskinned Corolla as a Chevy Prizm.

    Or did I forget that one of the flaws of GM’s management was their rampant rebadging efforts?

  • avatar
    WetWilly

    NUMMI makes the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe.

    NUMMI makes the Vibe but not the Matrix, which is made in Toyota’s Cambridge, Ontario plant.

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    They crank out record profits to record losses and are still the typically polite assholes they’ve been for decades. Truly remarkable arrogance. The real reason Toyota doesn’t want GM to fail has more to do with GM setting a price/quality floor. They say and act like they fear political backlash but their handful of US factories have every one so snowballed Tomoco doesn’t have to care anymore. Maybe in the 80’s but not today. Remember, you have to look underneath the underneath with Japanese business/political leaders because they sugar coat the shit outta everything.

    Perhaps once they start making crazy profits again they can go back to being smug as hell.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    The operative part of Mr. Watanabe’s statement is:

    “we don’t know enough about the restructuring plan”

    What he is saying is, there appears to be no plan.

  • avatar
    Campisi

    My money is on carefully crafted insult.

    Agreed. Were Fritz to actually approach them for some sort of help (that didn’t give Toyota an additional and enduring competitive advantage), I get the feeling that the response would be along the lines of “that would be difficult” (read: get lost).

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    GM would be stupid to get out of the Nummi Plant, they would have a chance to make good models with no engineering etc etc

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