Has Toyota jumped the shark in the U.S.?

toyota-camry

That may a silly question as it relates to the most successful car company in recent years, but Toyota has been facing some issues that go beyond the problems caused by the economic crisis.

The Detroit News has a lengthy article about how Toyota is no longer profitable in North America, and Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor America and chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA, made some pretty stunning admissions about the problems facing Toyota.

Because of Toyota’s success for the last eight years, there was an attitude among some executives that, “OK, now we have been so successful, we understand the market, so can make a decision there rather than here,” Inaba said.

Inaba said the company is listening to the market, and customers “had been a little bit lost.”

When asked whether Toyota had become complacent, he said, “Complacent or arrogant — a lot of people use that — I don’t know,” he said, adding that the company had tried to guard against those qualities.

Inaba acknowledged that Toyota vehicles had often lacked “passion” and that the company’s vehicles must be “more exciting, more nimble.”

“Toyota is a good car but not exciting. Those are the comments we usually (or) always get,” Inaba said.

In my opinion Toyota has just found itself in a position where the competition has caught up to them in quality and surpassed them in design. When you consider that other automakers have figured out how to build cars more efficiently, the edge is gone for the Japanese giant. Toyota took advantage of that cost advantage and that allowed them to rake in big profits. When the economy comes back they will make money again but their rivals are growing with Hyundai looking like the real value in the foreign car crowd (have you seen the Genesis?) and Lexus looking more and more like an overpriced Camry.

Also, did I mention that Ford is at the start of their best product launches in decades and GM and Chrysler are trimmed down and ready to compete again? Let the games begin!

  

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