September 5, 2012
Toyota runs deep.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 9/5, 8:15 a.m.) Detroit. Well, that was special, it really was. While Toyota suffered through a bout of abject stupidity at the executive decision-making level over a three-year stretch, followed by the devastating tsunami that put paid to its production capability for months after that, there were very few people in this business willing to allow themselves to think that this was anything but a bad patch for the former Japanese car company formerly known as “the juggernaut.”
They would be back. And boy, are they ever.
With a switched-on family scion at the helm and a renewed sense of purpose, Toyota is about to ratchet-up the competition for everyone. It’s not just that the Toyota, Scion and Lexus brands accounted for a 46 percent increase in sales last month, or the 30 percent sales increase overall for the automaker this year in the U.S. market, it’s the almost two full points of market share that the company has gobbled back up so far in 2012. And especially disheartening to the competition was that Toyota’s August sales performance came with almost negligible fleet sales contributing to the tally.
No, Toyota has learned its lesson, apparently, and this does not bode well for the Detroit-based automakers in particular. Why? Because as many strides as Ford, GM and the Italian-owned Chrysler have made in developing ultra-competitive products with real appeal, Toyota has rediscovered its mojo and is back in the game, big time. And that means that besides having Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Volkswagen to contend with, what’s known as “Detroit” now has to contend with a reinvigorated Toyota.
What does a rejuvenated Toyota’s presence in the market mean? It’s as if Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lion’s superb wide receiver, had to sit out for a while but now he’s back bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. That’s the best analogy I can come up with this morning because Toyota is back stronger than ever, fast in its decision-making and on-point with its marketing acumen.
Bigger? Only in the good sense, yes. Toyota certainly has the technical resources and a phenomenal group of dealers at its disposal, but it has abandoned its all-consuming desire to be No. 1 in the world, which is where it all started to go wrong for them in the first place. Now, Akio Toyoda has the company keeping its head down and focusing on the job at hand, which is to design, engineer and build the best vehicles that they can.
That’s what every automaker wants to do, of course, but when your competition has thrown a little dirt in your face and you’ve been battered and bruised, you tend to appreciate it more, and you’re hungrier. And right now, Toyota isn’t acting like the ponderous monolith that it once was. Instead it’s fired-up and hungry again, and as I said that does not bode well for its competition.
And why is that exactly? This just in: Consumers like Toyota. Consumers are comfortable with the idea of the brand and its promise. They believe in Toyota and understand what to expect from it. And they have a deep vault of accumulated positive experiences to consider, whether it is from their own ownership experience or from experiences related by friends, colleagues or family members.
In other words, Toyota runs deep.
(And since Chevrolet’s weak and unconvincing “Chevy Runs Deep” ad theme will soon be relegated to the Discarded Ad Themes Historical Museum in the sky, it seems a better fit with the Japanese brand anyway.)
And a hungry Toyota runs deeper still.
The aforementioned competitors who have enjoyed their place in the sun while Toyota was down better savor their run, because it’s just about to get exceedingly difficult for them. Toyota plans on unleashing a series of aggressive finance programs in the next month that will add to their momentum.
That means trouble with a Capitol “T.”
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.