Saving Face? Toyota Sees “No Meaning” in Being World’s Largest Automaker

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The supply-chain problems and factory disruptions resulting from the March 11 disaster that pummeled Japan may have dashed Toyota’s chances of being the world’s largest automaker -- and the company now says it doesn’t care. Automotive News reports that Toyota executive vice president Satoshi Ozawa said Toyota has “sworn off” its efforts to be the world’s largest car company, and instead will focus on customer satisfaction.

“There is no meaning in us [Toyota] being the global number one,” Ozawa told Automotive News. Instead, he said the company will focus on customer satisfaction and product quality, rather than overall sales volume. “I believe we will never have a target to be number one.”

This announcement is a huge turnaround from earlier this year. Toyota overtook General Motors as the world’s top-selling automaker in 2007, and began running an advertising campaign in the U.S. proclaiming that it was “Number one for a reason.”

The change in heart comes just days after financial results revealed Toyota expects profits to drop 31 percent year-over-year, with annual car production volume expected to fall from 7.31 million units last year to 7.24 million for financial year 2012, and sales expected to drop from 7.56 million to 7.3 million vehicles. The company likewise said that it expected just 280 billion yen ($3.5 billion) in profits for financial-year 2012, compared with about $5.1 billion last year.

Toyota’s plants have been working at drastically reduced capacity since March, but they’re expected to resume 90-percent normal capacity by then end of this month and 100-percent of scheduled capacity by this November.

The Japanese company had set its sights on gaining 15 percent of the world’s automotive market and had rushed to expand and grow. Now with a predicted 77-percent loss in fourth-quarter profits, Toyota may slip from the global top spot -- and based on Ozawa’s comments, it doesn’t sound it is in any rush to reclaim the number one seat.

Source: Automotive News

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