By on October 26, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry LE - Image: Toyota

If only other automakers were as sensible and wise as Toyota. If those companies held Toyota’s Magic 8 Ball, conjuring up all the right answers in the little purple window, they wouldn’t be so hasty to embark on risky ventures.

That’s the view of Toyota’s executive vice president, who’s apparently feeling pretty pleased with himself and his company. Didier Leroy broke from the automaker’s staid, stay-the-course-and-don’t-ruffle-feathers attitude at the Tokyo Motor Show this week, describing his rivals’ faults at a dinner held on the show’s sidelines.

Plunge headlong into electric vehicles? Sure, make wild long-term promises to customers, Leroy said. Toyota doesn’t do that. It just hands you a real car when it’s ready. Oh, and those diesels everyone’s worried about? Toyota fell out of love with them long before the word “dieselgate” left anyone’s lips.

Toyota’s feeling its oats.

While the automaker regularly appears atop the list of the world’s largest automakers, Leroy doesn’t feel there’s much point in chasing volume just for the sake of holding the top podium. Let Volkswagen or Renault-Nissan chase the glory, he feels, as just being big doesn’t keep customers coming back.

“Toyota could buy another one, two or three companies to be the world’s No.1 automaker again, but chasing volume for the sake of being No.1 is pointless,” said Leroy, as reported by Automotive News. “Toyota had consistently sold over 10 million units a year, so we have scale. And customers buy products and brands, not a position in the automaker ranking.”

In a world where practically every automaker, save for perhaps Mazda, promises a lineup of electric vehicles (ones you’ll surely want to buy) by a randomly selected date in the tantalizingly near future, that just isn’t Toyota’s style, Leroy claims.

“When will Toyota launch its first full EV? It will come and you’ll see it when it’s ready,” Leroy said. “While other automakers circulate detailed PowerPoints of their far future product plans, we unveil a new product only when it’s ready, so our customers can buy it and our dealers can sell it.”

Note the repeated use of the word “product,” which Toyota sees as the opposite of the word “promise.” Getting sassy, Leroy then named names.

“At Toyota, we aim for profitable growth, so selling an EV and losing $10,000 per unit as Tesla does is not a sound business model in our view.”

Ouch. We expect a harshly worded rebuttal from Elon Musk any minute now, just as soon as he’s done chewing out Consumer Reports. On the topic of EV sales, Leroy said that in Europe, besides France, Norway and Germany, EV sales “are basically zero. Zero!

As for diesels, the automaker long ago decided to stop development of its own oil-burners. Unlike most of its overseas competitors, the subcompact C-HR crossover is only offered with gasoline engines. Six years ago, Leroy said, Toyota signed a contract with BMW to supply its European lineup with diesels, rather than go it alone.

“By the way, at that time, 40 percent of our European sales were diesels, now they are 15 percent,” he said.

Automakers in as strong a position as Toyota can afford to break character once in awhile and enjoy their standing, though hubris is an ever-present danger. That seemed like the case when Toyota boasted of the upcoming 2018 Camry’s predicted sales prowess. Did the revamped sedan re-energize the declining midsize car segment like Toyota predicted? No, but the new Camry did carve out a larger chunk of that market for itself, which, to an automaker, is what really matters.

Like a washed-up celebrity was once fond of saying — winning.

[Image: Toyota]

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51 Comments on “Boastful Toyota Exec Feels Little Sympathy For Foolish Rivals...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Yet Toyota persists with hydrogen fuel cells. Gimme a break.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’ll add another: Tesla has outlasted Scion.

      They both started at the same time, but only one of them remains.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick Astley

        If Scion had $7,500 of your hard earned dollars on the hood of every car, they would still be around.

        giving 0.01% of R&D budget to a long term project with potential doesn’t seem that bad. I mean, it’s not like they are trying to stiff the taxpayers with a national recharging infrastructure for a subsidized vehicle luxury sports car that is so popular it commands a tenth of a point of market share.

        Tesla (your golden boy), doesn’t seem all that interested in involving itself in the risk or expense of an infrastructure for it’s vehicles. Surely they could assume SOME risk and build that out and command the recharging market nationally. They would become the BP or ExxonMobil of the electric age!!! Elon could be rich(er) than ever, and better yet, he could use some of his own money for these sure-fire ideas.

      • 0 avatar

        Kind of demonstrates Leroy’s point about profitability…..

      • 0 avatar

        Didn’t look like there was much of a future for Scion, so better to quit then sink more money into it. Although I kind of wished they kept the TC around.

      • 0 avatar

        “Tesla has outlasted Scion”

        What a moronic comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      Because that’s the long term future. Electric is simply a stop gap for hydrogen.

  • avatar

    Give the LS its engine back.

  • avatar

    Maybe I am missing something here. I do not see how the statement that Tesla is selling its cars below the cost of making them is an “Ouch”.
    I have read in the business news, and IIRC on TTAC, that is what Tesla is doing.
    Or is that something everyone is supposed to keep quiet about in public?

    • 0 avatar

      You are missing the point of this article. It’s about Toyota, a normally very buttoned down company, “feeling its oats,” talking smack about VW diesel-gate, and piling on Tesla’s woes. News is Toyota behaving out of character. Not news is Tesla losing money. Put in an old school way, “dog bites man” is not news. “Man bites dog” is news.

      I’m ok with Toyota having some fun over dinner, but then, they leave themselves wide open in their Quixotic pursuit of the hydrogen fuel cell. See @SCE’s comment above.

      • 0 avatar

        This. And Toyota has not been without blunder:

        1) Very late to the subcompact CUV party
        2) Over 60K Camrys go to fleet every year – the biggest in pure numbers
        3) The Avalon is a huge fleet queen
        4) The Yaris (not the iA Yaris) basically exists only for rental fodder – they don’t have a viable B-segment offering at all
        5) After decades of trying the Toyota fullsize pickups remains an after-thought
        6) Killed the FJ Cruiser with no update just as SUV sales exceeded sedan sales
        7) It’s all about hydrogen fuel cells, and they haven’t hit a single goal set back in 2010 (reference TTAC)
        8) Let’s face it, the 86 is a global flop and should be, 86
        9) Lexus design is — controversial (some cars are gorgeous, others….yikes)
        10) There has been a general decline in quality and there has been decontenting – that isn’t to say that quality is “bad” or that vehicles are “spartan,” but the days of the 1995 Camry are long over
        11) We didn’t get caught on diesels, but we apparently couldn’t design floor mats or gas pedals correctly less than a decade ago, then tried to cover it up in the United States, then got caught

  • avatar

    Here in Colorado, rental cars are easy to spot – their license plates have red lettering on a white background, with the letters “FLT” added.

    And I see TONS of new Camrys with these plates on ’em around here.

    Did this car REALLY get Toyota more market share, or did they dump a bunch of them into fleets early on and then congratulate themselves over this massive sales conquest?

    We shall see.

    Something tells me the new Accord is going to do bad, bad things to the Camry in the non-fleet market.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m surprised CO still does that. After the Florida tourist killings in the 90s, I thought all states got rid of the easily identifiable rental license plate.

      • 0 avatar

        Even without distinctive license plates, rental cars are still easily identifiable by the barcodes stuck to one or more windows.

        • 0 avatar

          True but that makes it a little tougher for the “bad guys”, vs just looking for a red and white license plate to follow.

          • 0 avatar

            Just look for the Nissan Versas.

            On topic, looked up who this Leroy guy is, he heads the Europe division, so this is still super subdued for Europe since he hasn’t slapped a Ferrari exec with a leather glove and challenged him to a duel.

    • 0 avatar

      In terms of total numbers, Camry has been the number one seller to fleets for years now (not in terms of percentage). Anywhere from 60K to 68K a year to fleets since the Japanese earthquake.

      At the same time, the Camry moved to the vehicle in class with the lowest ATP (exception, when the Chrysler 200 was discontinued and they were blowing them out), which makes sense as they push to the limit what the market can absorb (which isn’t saying they are channel stuffing)

    • 0 avatar

      Enterprise rented us a Malibu LT in Denver with “218 XBL” in red on the license plates with “FLT” in smaller, vertical font on the left edge. A guy in a small Wyoming town thought the plate was from MA given the red lettering (as seen from some distance).

      Most of our driving was in Wyoming, so vast and empty, not crazy like Florida.

      My home state of VA long ago quit using “R” as the first letter on rental car license plates.

  • avatar

    If Toyota’s so keyed into what consumers want, why hasn’t it adopted Apple Car Play and Android Auto? No way am I buying another car unless it has that capability.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the fact they focus on making a car not an infotainment capsule.

      • 0 avatar

        Except EnTune is pretty awful. Yes, even the new 3.0 version on the ’18 Camry.

        One of the advantages of having AA/ACP in your car is a familiar interface – it works just like your phone does, requiring less brain power than having to navigate the soft button soup of Entune, and not relying on clumsy hacks to get to Siri/OK Google (which is really how you should be communicating with your car if you’re driving and there isn’t a dedicated steering wheel button to perform a function).

        This is endemic amongst the Japanese automakers – that “their way” is better and partnering with Western companies is a waste of time. Only Honda and (very recently) Subaru get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Cupples

      In 2007 I bought my CRV because in part it had Navigation and the RAV4 didn’t. This year I might be replacing it with my next CRV because in part it has Car Play and the RAV4 doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      They haven’t adapted proper transmissions across their product line either, despite there being no way I’ll buy another car without one.

  • avatar

    If I made the LC 500 (I saw one in the metal over the weekend) I’d be proud too. They made the L branding work on that one. They even sell it in brown.

  • avatar

    “At Toyota, we aim for profitable growth, so selling an EV and losing $10,000 per unit as Tesla does is not a sound business model in our view.”

    Perhaps he needs to talk to the people building the Mirai about that one…

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps they need to review their own history. In the article linked below from 2001 they announced they were finally break-even on the Prius. The article says they were as high as a $8,000 loss per/unit at one point.

      • 0 avatar

        The difference is Toyota could easily afford to subsidize the Prius when it was new. Tesla’s *only* line of business is electric cars and batteries. They can’t continue to run on accounting tricks forever.

        The Prius was a money loser at launch, but Toyota now offers hybrid models in a third of their US lineup and over half of their Japanese one. I’d say in the end the gamble paid off.

        (the Mirai will see no such success, as it requires a wholly new refueling infrastructure that will never come to pass in most countries)

        • 0 avatar

          …but Toyota now offers hybrid models in a third of their US lineup and over half of their Japanese one. I’d say in the end the gamble paid off…

          And Prius sales have been in steady decline for years.

      • 0 avatar

        It took them 4 years to break even and then they lead that market for 17 years and into the foreseeable future.

        Yeah I’d say they’re still plenty clear to give Tesla the business about their business.

  • avatar

    Sorry but I don’t see boasting just stating the facts. Toyota does indeed deliver a product when it is ready. Engineering and product execution seems to be their primary focus.

    Their unwillingness to rush into across the line adoption of small displacement turbocharged engines is an example of that philosophy.

    Also they drove adoption of the hybrid cars by other automakers with the Prius. That vehicle upped fuel efficiency at least 30% overnight for cars of that size class.

    As I read the article my thought was that Toyota actually does have a good sense of what the average car buyer wants and will continue to deliver it.

    • 0 avatar

      And here I thought Honda came out with the first hybrid with the Insight before Toyota. Didn’t the Japanese government subsidize the Prius development? And production?

      I mean this argument of won’t use technology until it is ready was used for other manufacturers.

      The Yaris gets middling fuel economy, has a 4-speed automatic, drum brakes, and a torsion beam suspension. What exactly is Toyota waiting for to be convinced that that 4-wheel discs are 21st century technology?

      If Toyota doesn’t used half-baked technology, then why does the Sienna have power sliding doors – a technology that has a stunningly high long term failure rate (to paraphrase Jack, with power sliding doors and air suspensions it isn’t an “if” it is a “when” and that when is expensive).

      What does Toyota need to be convinced that Apple Carplay and Android Auto are ready???

      If they don’t release technology until it is ready, why are Toyota 5-speed manual transmissions basically a grenade with the pin pulled (the 6-speed manuals are bullet proof)?

      If they don’t release technology until ready, then why did they have oil gelling problems when they went to ULEV engines in the early 2000s, then denied the problem?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The only convertibles Toyota sells are the ISCs. No Supra, no MR2 with no corresponding Lexus F Types of them. I also understand the truck guys are grumbling about the new Tacoma. Toyota could send us some fun cars again.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota does not sell any convertibles. The Lexus IS C was killed off in 2015.

      • 0 avatar

        More importantly, Toyota does not have any fun engines. You can get your 2.45something I-4 or your 3.5ish V6, otherwise you have a 1.who-cares hybrid setup. No screamers like the high revving GT-S or XRS engines, no legends like the 2JZ, and no apparent plans to do what Akio claims he wants besides making big black painted squares on their front bumpers for “excitement.”

        • 0 avatar

          The 250k miles I got out of my 2ZZ Matrix XRS were fantastic. Never got tired of that sound.

          • 0 avatar


            2ZZ + 6-speed manual + Matrix/Vibe setup was one Hell of a practical and fun car. That engine note was fantastically when you wound it out. Like other high revving engines it’s only flaw was to produce power, you had to wind it out.

            Great vehicles – shame the AWD system couldn’t handle the torque and was only available with the gimpy 1.8.

    • 0 avatar

      @el scotto I assume you have an 86 in your driveway?

    • 0 avatar

      whynot is correct above – and the market right now just doesn’t seem to care about convertibles in general. I believe marketshare for convertibles stands at around 1% total.

  • avatar

    Toyota does have the benefit of operating in a post bubble home market. Hence are more directly in the market of selling product, rather than just hype and paper.

    And in a position to hire, and promote to positions of authority, people capable of bringing to market competitive product. Instead of people whose stock in trade is selling handbags to Wall Street welfare queens; renamed for political correctness subprime loans to people who can’t afford to pay them back; and endless whines about needing regulations to protect them from competition from those who do focus on building better product.

  • avatar

    I suppose I should update my Toyota file:

    Boring. Disconnected. Appliance. Sludge. No style styling. Caution: brake pedal is an overboosted on/off switch. I will probably never buy one. Maybe an FRS. Scions have nice stereos. Excess of brackets secured with 10 mm bolts. Just replace the entire transfer case every time. Smug owners. Smug company.

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