Toyota CEO: Back to "High-Quality Vehicles People Can Afford"

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Call it tall poppy syndrome. Even as the world’s largest automaker’s fell into the U.S. new car sales quagmire, Toyota’s critics slated the brand’s quality “issues.” The Detroit News [sub] reports that freshly-minted CEO Akio Toyoda has ticked all the boxes in his efforts to reassure his stakeholders (as opposed to steak holders) and say the right thing to everyone about everything. “Toyoda emphasized the company’s core principles, including the need to produce clean vehicles for the benefit of society. But, he said, ‘we must do it in a way that’s affordable to today’s customers.’ That is the key challenge for the industry, which is ‘at a point where we must re-invent the automobile.’ But Toyoda, a racing enthusiast, said one of his objectives as head of the company was to inject excitement into the lineup. He said Toyota planned to develop an affordable, fun-to-drive sports car in the next few years but did not elaborate.” So green, affordable, [somewhat] exciting, affordable and . . . what was that again? High quality. How come the DetN didn’t put that in a direct quote?

Robert Farago
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  • Don1967 Don1967 on Aug 06, 2009
    Hyundai’s products are starting to make even GM products look shoddy. Actually Hyundai's products are starting to make everyone's products look shoddy, at least in my experience. My 2008 Santa Fe has better build quality than any of the GM, Honda, Mazda or Nissan products which I (or my family members) have owned over the past 25 years. It has been 100% trouble-free during its first two years of service, despite some hard duty as a summer tow vehicle and winter commuter. In 2005 Toyota publicly identified Hyundai as its greatest competitive threat, and the evidence is mounting that they were right. All this lip service about Toyota returning to its roots, while quality declines and product lines multiply, is not fooling anyone.
  • Akear Akear on Aug 06, 2009

    It is pointless knocking the newly crowned world's top carmaker. When GM finally loses Opel, Toyota has it made.

  • Lokkii Lokkii on Aug 06, 2009
    "6speeds ... How much of a difference does it really make?" I have an 08 328i that replaced an 04 325i - the 08 has a 6 speed where the 04 had a 5. Granted the cars are slightly different, but even with the slightly increased displacement and power, the cars and their engines are essentially the same. The 6 speed 328i is getting about 24 mpg on average vs. the 22 that the 5 speed 325i got. That's a significant improvement. So, I tend to believe that there is improvement to be gained from additional gear ratios. Whether the law of diminishing returns kicks in at 6 speeds, 7, or 8, I can't say. As for Honda and Toyota taking a long-term look at the demands of the market - that's a fundamental difference between their business culture and the Detroit model. They are willing to accept short-losses on a model during its development phase in order to achieve long-term profit. Contrast this to GM where we continue to get "Hail Mary" attempts like the Volt which will be rushed into mass production. They should follow the Prius model where only a few are released, tested, refined the following year, and then real "mass" production only started after the design has been completely worked out
  • Zorkor Zorkor on Aug 06, 2009
    suspekt : August 5th, 2009 at 4:45 pm I haven’t posted this comment before but here goes… my theory is that Honda and Toyota started long ago diverting resources towards drivetrain technologies and platforms that were predicated on a future with ever decreasing reliance on petroleum based products. I would further wager that they have ready-to-roll technologies that they are simply petering out to the consumer at a rate that ensures they are at the front of the curve when it comes to their competitors… there would NO ADDED VALUE to release a Prius that could do 75mpg when 50mpg provides the same general sales volume. I think one of the best examples(and only plausible explanation I can come up with) has been Honda’s strange reluctance to adopt a proper 6 speed transmission (now being released in the new MDX and ZDX). I simply believe that whereas the competitors spent large sums getting these units into their vehicles to offer better mileage and performance, Honda chose to allow their relative engine efficiencies do the walking while they diverted the requisite resources towards furthering their fuel cell tech and related componentry. They didnt feel spending the few hundred million to get that 6th cog in a short time frame was worth the investment in human and financial capital. They diverted it elsewhere. Not to bonuses and compensation, but to other technologies that are simply waiting to be put into the production line. I really truly believe the Honda/Toyota could very easily build and sell vehicle with the style of an AM Vantage, the performance of a Z06, at the price of a GTR. But they dont. Not because they cant, but because they dont need to. Everyone can say they need more performance, but my hunch is that they are busily perfecting technology that the competition will be faced with reverse engineering once the product(s) are deployed…. Honda did the NSX in ‘91. Toyota did the Supra in ‘93. These cars are incredible machines even by todays standard. Everyone marvels at the BMW TT 3.0 inline six, yet the supra had this type of powerplant putting out 320hp / 315tq 16 years ago. My point is, Toyota and Honda have the quality they put out by choice. Not because they cant or have “lost their way”. They have chosen to remain in the lead by the margin they have carefully calculated. Maybe Toyota removed a little too much quality in the name of profit, maybe, but i would disagree. In the long run, these two firms are not pissing away the lead. They are busily solidifying their next generation or two of technologies… just my 2 cents… One of the best 2 cents I ever read... I totally agree with you suspekt. People kick around the toyondas with having weak engines and tin can designs but the truth is they dont give a damn as they are already having a good time with what theyre doing...