New Year and New Toyota!

The good news for Toyota is that profits are back and last year is in the rear-view mirror. People are actually looking for things like a Toyota Tacoma for sale. But, the competition is more fierce than ever before and not just in North America but around the world as well. Toyota can’t bank on reliability alone to sell cars and trucks as the gap is tight with their rivals. It appears they got the memo and are starting to produce some better looking vehicles which should help the bottom line even more.

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. predicts surging North American sales will deliver its highest profit in five years, as the carmaker rapidly rebounds from last year’s natural disasters.

North American sales are seen climbing 25 percent to 2.35 million vehicles in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Sales in Toyota’s second-biggest market slid 7.8 percent to 1.87 million units in the just-ended fiscal year, as an earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand crimped supply. But North America remained one of the company’s more profitable regions despite the decline and is poised for growth.

Revived North American sales will power Toyota to near record global sales of 8.7 million vehicles this fiscal year, Japan’s largest carmaker said today in its annual earnings presentation.

Toyota’s worldwide sales peaked at 8.91 million vehicles, on a fiscal year basis, in the 12 months ended March 31, 2008.

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Strong Yen Makes Toyota Rethink Production in Japan

In a press conference by Toyota Motor Corp.’s president Akio Toyoda today, Toyoda announced that the strength of the Japanese yen may cause Toyota to shift production of compact cars to other countries. Toyota is not the first Japanese car company to come out against the yen. Nissan has also pleaded to the government to weaken the yen, or they would pull out of domestic production as well.

The yen has been incredibly strong against the U.S. dollar as of late, causing profit margins to erode for many of the domestic Japanese automotive manufacturers. Coupled with lagging demand in the U.S., and supply chain disruptions due to the earthquake, Japanese brands have had a difficult set of circumstances as they struggle for sales in a tough year.

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Toyota’s new boss speaks with Fortune

Toyota’s new President is starting at the time when the mighty Toyota is having uncharacteristic problems. Toyota’s U.S. sales tanked in June, and for the first six months of 2009 Toyota was outsold by Ford in the United States.

Fortune spoke with Akio Toyoda about his vision for Toyota’s future.

Even though he has the same last name as five of the 10 previous presidents of Toyota Motor, Akio Toyoda is nothing like his predecessors.

Item: He has spent seven years in the U.S., holds an MBA, and speaks flawless English.

Item: He likes to race cars and just completed a 24-hour endurance competition with three other team members in a Toyota supercar at Germany’s famed Nürburgring.

Item: At age 53 he is 14 years younger than the man he is succeeding, and he believes that his relative youth “can make a unique contribution” to the company.

Toyoda takes office two months after Toyota reported the biggest annual loss in its history — $4.4 billion. He thinks that his family’s company — at last count, the Toyoda clan owned approximately 2% of the stock — suffered because of a “once-in-a-century crisis” brought on by the global economic slowdown, as well as Toyota’s own internal problems, some of them at its U.S. operations. He vows to rein in overcapacity, reorganize operations to strengthen control, and get the company back to basics. He especially wants to reinstill dedication to one of the pillars of Toyota’s production system: genchi genbutsu, meaning “go and see for yourself.”

Akio Toyoda is a grandson of Toyota’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda (the family changed the spelling of the company’s name for greater euphony) and the son of Shoichiro Toyoda, now honorary chairman. After getting a law degree from prestigious Keio University, he went to the U.S., where he received an MBA from Babson College (the alma mater of another auto scion, Edsel Ford II). He joined Toyota in 1984 and returned to the U.S. for a two-year stint as head of NUMMI, the California plant that is a joint venture with General Motors. At ultraconservative Toyota, Toyoda is considered a bit of a radical. In the early part of this decade he headed the development team for an Internet venture,, which provides information on new and used vehicles and which morphed into a lifestyle cybermall.

If you read the actual interview, he doesn’t sound like much of a radical, but it looks like some changes will be in order under his leadership.


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