Tag Archive | "Toyota Motor Corp."

VW Considering Tripling SUV Lineup to Overtake Toyota


Volkswagen AG is considering tripling the namesake VW brand’s sport-utility vehicle lineup in a bid to overtake Toyota Motor Corp. in global deliveries, two people familiar with the matter said, according to The Detroit News.

The VW marque will offer as many as six SUVs in the coming years, expanding from the midsize Touareg and compact Tiguan currently on sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified in advance of an official announcement.

Demand for SUVs is growing, with the models likely to account for 20.1 percent of global production by 2018 compared with 17.6 percent in 2012, according to consulting company PwC. The VW nameplate’s focus on traditional cars, such as the Golf hatchback and Passat sedan, has in particular held back the brand in the U.S., where rivals have wider SUV offerings.

“The SUV segment is still growing globally, and it’s a key segment for all manufacturers,” Roman Mathyssek, a Munich-based analyst at Strategy Engineers GmbH consulting company, said by phone. “The VW brand still has growth potential in SUVs, which could especially help them to build a stronger position in the U.S. and in emerging markets.”

The $23,305 Tiguan will be updated as a lighter vehicle in 2015 to help lower fuel consumption, and VW is also developing a coupe version and longer variant of the model, the people said. VW may also offer a subcompact crossover, which has characteristics of an SUV and traditional car, choosing between the boxier Taigun and coupe-like T-Roc prototypes displayed at recent auto shows, the people said.

In addition, VW plans to build a midsized SUV based on the CrossBlue concept that is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in 2016. VW has yet to choose the model’s production site pending a cost review that includes potential incentives from governments in Mexico and Tennessee, one person said.

Rounding out VW’s offerings in the segment is the $44,570 Touareg, the brand’s first and largest SUV. Officials at Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen, the world’s second-largest automaker, declined to comment on the manufacturer’s SUV plans.

VW has a target of beating Toyota in annual deliveries by 2018. The new models would let VW challenge more of the Japanese manufacturer’s seven-model SUV lineup that ranges from the $23,550 RAV4 to the $79,605 Land Cruiser. Detroit-based General Motors Co., which VW passed in global sales last year, offers 14 SUVs, from the $24,160 Buick Encore to the $65,380 GMC Yukon XL Denali. The figures don’t include SUV offerings from Toyota’s upscale Lexus brand or GM’s premium Cadillac.

“Japanese manufacturers were very early to realize the potential of on-road SUVs and developed differentiated products to complement their passenger-car offerings before most European peers,” said Christoph Stuermer, lead analyst for PwC’s Autofacts forecasting service. “A growing number of planned coupe-style variants will add to the dynamic of the trend toward SUVs and crossovers.”

The moves mirror a broader push into SUVs underway at VW’s premium brands. Porsche began delivering the Macan compact SUV in Germany in April. The model, priced at 57,930 euros ($78,800) in Europe and $49,900 in the U.S., and the larger Cayenne are likely to bring SUV deliveries to 64 percent of Porsche’s total sales by next year, with its traditional sports cars such as the 911 accounting for 24 percent, according to consulting company IHS Automotive.

Audi offers three SUVs and will introduce a fourth, the subcompact Q1, in 2016. Volkswagen’s high-end brand Bentley plans to bring out the world’s most expensive SUV that year. VW’s Lamborghini performance-car unit is considering introducing an SUV in 2017.

SUVs typically are more profitable than cars. The models being considered would be targeted at helping the VW brand approach a goal for operating profit to exceed 6 percent of sales, compared with a margin of 2.9 percent earned last year.

Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Poetsch said at the annual shareholders meeting last month that earnings at the VW brand should improve over the course of 2014, after the cost of rolling out modular manufacturing technology weighed on earnings in recent quarters. The production process is designed to enable VW to develop and build new models and variants at a lower cost by sharing larger sets of components.

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Toyota Plans 19% Boost in Director Pay After Record Profit


Via The Detroit News:

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker, plans to boost pay to directors by 19 percent for the last fiscal year after the company earned record profit.

Toyota proposed 1.52 billion yen ($14.9 million) in combined compensation and bonuses to 21 directors, including President Akio Toyoda, in a notice to shareholders Tuesday. The Toyota City, Japan-based company paid 1.28 billion yen the previous fiscal year.

After recording an unprecedented 1.82 trillion yen profit last fiscal year, Toyota forecast this month that net income will slip 2.4 percent in the year ending March 31. The company predicts deliveries to increase in every major region except Japan, where the nation’s first sales-tax increase in 17 years is expected to temper demand.

Toyota has proposed raising its year-end dividend to 100 yen a share, or 165 yen for the full year. The company also is buying back stock for the first time in five years. In March, it said it would repurchase as many as 60 million shares, equivalent to a 1.9 percent stake, for 360 billion yen.

By comparison, total pay for union workers increased 8.2 percent on average from last fiscal year.

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Toyota Alerts U.S. Safety Board to Issue That Could Result in Recall


(Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp. alerted U.S. safety officials about seat material in several vehicles that does not meet fire retardation standards, which could result in a recall depending on what the safety agency decides.

The Japanese automaker said on Thursday it had stopped selling several models in North America equipped with seat heaters made since August 2012 after being alerted by South Korean safety officials that material in the part did not meet fire retardation standards also used in the United States. The cars are built in United States and some are exported to Korea.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the company had informed the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the issue and would file an official report later on Thursday outlining the non-compliance with the standard. He added that Toyota did not feel a recall was necessary. “We don’t believe that it is a defect issue or a safety-related issue because there has been no occurrence of any problems out in the real world,” Hanson said.

There have been no reports of accidents, fires or injuries related to the issue in the affected vehicles in the United States, Canada or Mexico, he said. The NHTSA will make the final determination on whether a recall is needed, and Hanson said he did not know the timeline for that decision. Toyota does not know yet how many cars are affected by the issue, he said.

NHTSA officials could not immediately be reached to comment.

Toyota dealers have been told to stop selling any of the affected vehicles until the part can be replaced, Hanson said. The automaker will handle requests by individual owners to replace the part at no cost on a case-by-case basis.

Affected vehicles are the Camry sedan, Camry hybrid, Avalon sedan, Avalon hybrid, Corolla subcompact, Sienna minivan and Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks equipped with seat heaters that were sold since August 2012, when the fabric supplier was changed, he said.

Toyota found out about the issue when it was notified that the seat heater did not pass a test conducted by the Korean Automotive Test and Research Institute (KATRI), which uses the same standard as NHTSA, Hanson said.

The Korean agency found that the material in the seat heater does not meet standards that require it to retard a flame across the material surface at a specified rate, he said. KATRI notified Toyota of the failed compliance.

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Auto Industry Sees Strong September Sales


This week, all of the major manufacturers in the auto industry released their sales numbers for September. And across the board, the news is very good. Across the board were reports of increased vehicle sales, not just over last year’s numbers but in many cases the best numbers these companies have seen since in the last decade. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Ford Motor Co., for example, reported that overall, it’s small car sales were up 73 percent year-over-year to 24,628 units, the best numbers it has had since 2002. The company’s F-Series trucks continued a 14-year consecutive growth streak, with an increase of one percent over last year to sell 55,077 units. “As more buyers look for new vehicles across the country, Ford is ready with our strongest lineup ever of fuel-efficient cars, utilities and full-size pickups,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fuel economy remains one of the most important features customers want most today, and Ford is answering the call with five vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or better – with another three on the way by year-end.”

Toyota was another winner, with sales results of 171,910 units, an increase of 41.5 percent compared to the same period last year on both a daily selling rate (DSR) and a raw volume basis. The Toyota Division posted September total sales of 151,524 units, an increase of 42.3 percent on a DSR basis from September 2011. The Lexus Division reported total sales of 20,386 units in September 2012, up 36.0 percent from September 2011 on both a DSR and raw volume basis compared to the same period last year. “The auto industry had another very encouraging month in September,” said Bill Fay, Toyota group vice president and general manager. “Our dealers got off to a great start over Labor Day weekend and that momentum carried through the rest of the month, as Camry continued to stretch its lead as the most popular car in America.”

Hyundai Motor America wrapped up the quarter setting multiple sales records, including 60,025 sales for the month of September. Sales were up 15 percent for the month, and up 10 percent for the first nine months of the year versus 2011. The Azera and the Elantra families saw sales gains of 1028 percent and 27 percent, respectively, over last September. The Tucson saw sales gains of 23 percent over the same period a year ago, and Veloster, the three-door coupe, had a sales gain of 262 percent. Hyundai fleet sales and mix remained low at a nine percent mix for the month and year-to-date, among the lowest in the industry. “September was a very encouraging month for Hyundai as we avoided the traditional back-to-school sales decline and began to reap the benefits of a materially improved inventory situation on our core vehicle lines,” said Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales. “We’re well positioned for a strong fourth quarter as sales of the newly launched Elantra GT, Elantra Coupe, the all-new Azera and all-new Santa Fe continued at a brisk pace. Our fourth quarter production plan is up nearly 20 percent on a year-over-year basis.”

The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported September sales of 26,660 vehicles, an increase of 3.5 percent from the 25,749 vehicles sold in the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, BMW Group is up 7.1 percent on sales of 234,928 in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 219,314 in the same period in 2011. “The economic indicators and consumer confidence are showing improvement and the traffic in our showrooms is further encouraging our optimism for the fourth quarter of the year as the BMW new model ramp-up continues,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America, LLC. “The X1 in its first full month is largely sold out and MINI set another sales record; both are strong indicators of what’s to come.”

Mercedes-Benz USA reported record sales of 23,156 for its Mercedes-Benz models, up 7 percent, delivering a record year-to-date total of 191,618 new vehicles to customers, up 12.7 percent. Combined sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, smart and Sprinter for the month totaled 25,980, up 8.7 percent, bringing the year-to-date total to 214,331 up 16.7 percent. “We’re on our way to a record year with extraordinary momentum and demand outpacing supply,” stated Steve Cannon, president and CEO, MBUSA.

Kia Motors America (KMA) achieved a record third quarter and the 25th consecutive month of record sales, reaching 48,105 units, a 35.1 percent increase over the same period in 2011. The Optima midsize sedan sold 14,304 units and the Sorento CUV enjoyed sales of 10,066 vehicles. The Soul accounted for 9,467 units sold, bolstered by the recent launch of the “Bringing Down the House” advertising campaign featuring the music-loving Kia hamsters. “Kia’s product-led transformation – together with our successful marketing – have elevated Kia’s reputation beyond our bedrock commitment to value,” said Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO of KMA and KMMG. “At Kia, we work to understand the needs and expectations of our customers and work to find new ways to enrich their lives, providing the Kia brand with powerful potential as more new products and technologies are set to arrive in the next 12 months.”

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Toyota Forecasts Profit Will Double to Highest in 5 Years


Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s biggest carmaker, forecast profit will more than double to a five-year high as it shakes off last year’s natural disasters and introduces new models to regain market share.

Net income may increase to 760 billion yen ($9.5 billion) in the fiscal year ending March 2013, after falling to 283.6 billion yen, the Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker said today. The profit forecast was 7 percent below the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg, while the company projected higher-than-expected revenue growth.

Chief Executive Officer Akio Toyoda, 56, is rolling out new Prius hybrids, Corolla compacts and Lexus sedans to regain lost ground in what may be his first crisis-free year since becoming president in 2009. While production has returned to normal, the grandson of the founder now faces a reborn General Motors Co. that’s leading the industry in global sales, a rising Hyundai Motor Co. and a growing Volkswagen AG that’s dominating luxury- car sales in China.

The earnings show “they have strong confidence of improving profits and regaining market share, mainly in the U.S. but other markets as well,” said Kunihiko Shiohara, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo. “It’s going to give quite a favorable impression on the auto industry as a whole, as well as impressions on the Japanese economy.”

Toyota rose as much as 0.8 percent in Frankfurt trading after the revenue forecast of 22 trillion yen was 6 percent higher than the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg. The projection for operating profit of 1 trillion yen was in line with expectations.

The company reported results after the close of trading in Tokyo, where Toyota shares have gained 23 percent this year, outperforming Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and GM.

The maker of Corolla and Camry sedans said that deliveries — including those of its Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. subsidiaries — will increase 18 percent to 8.7 million vehicles this fiscal year, led by North America, where sales will climb 26 percent to 2.35 million units. They’ll increase 6.2 percent in Japan, 34 percent in the rest of Asia and 10 percent in Europe Toyota said.

The recovery began last quarter, with net income more than quadrupling to 121 billion yen as Toyota cranked up production 36 percent and the Japanese market became profitable for the first time in more than two years. The yen, which appreciated and eroded the value of Japanese exports during 2010 and 2011, became this year’s worst performer by the end of March.

The rebound wasn’t enough to keep full-year income from tumbling 31 percent as the March 11 Japanese disaster and subsequent floods in Thailand crippled automotive output. Toyota wasn’t alone as Tokyo-based Honda last month reported annual profit fell 60 percent and Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan, which reports May 11, has said since February that net income would slide 7.9 percent in the year ended March 2012.

Toyota, saddled with the highest proportion of Japanese production among the nation’s three largest carmakers, is slower than Nissan and Honda in recovering. While Toyota is forecasting it’s operating profit margin to reach 4.5 percent this fiscal year, Honda expects to reach 6 percent and analysts estimate Nissan to hit 7.2 percent.

“We know Toyota is slow in taking action but it’s about time for them to answer how long they will stick to Japanese production at the expense of being profitable and globally competitive,” said Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive officer at Fukoku Capital Management Inc. in Tokyo. “It’s one lap behind other carmakers.”

Still, Toyota’s projections indicate it will earn more than GM, which last week reported net income fell 61 percent to $1.32 billion on losses and restructuring costs in Europe. Analysts estimate the Detroit-based company will earn $7.38 billion over the next four quarters, excluding preferred dividends, which last year totaled $1.61 billion.

After ceding its title as the world’s largest automaker to GM in 2011, not much is going wrong for Toyota in its two biggest markets this year.

Pent-up demand and government subsidies, which last until January, have helped Japan grow faster than any other major auto market this year. Passenger-vehicle sales in the country have jumped 57 percent during the first four months of 2012, led by Toyota’s Prius hybrids, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. That benefited Toyota as it generated 60 percent of its revenue from Japan last fiscal year.

The reliance on its home market may decline as Toyota forecast its deliveries to North America will overtake those of Japan this fiscal year. Toyota’s sales in the U.S. have increased 12 percent this year — outpacing GM, Ford Motor Co., Nissan and Honda — on demand for the Camry sedan and the Prius hybrids, as buyers who put off purchases returned to dealerships to find more fuel-efficient models.

Total U.S. light-vehicle sales, which rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14.4 million in April, have exceeded analysts’ estimates three out of four months this year.

In Europe and China, where auto sales fell during the first quarter, Toyota has been less vulnerable to slumping demand because it is less reliant on those markets than companies such as PSA Peugeot Citroen and GM. Toyota, which had a global market share of about 10 percent in 2011, accounted for 3.2 percent of Europe’s market and 4.3 percent in China, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Toyota made about half of its vehicles in Japan in the year ended March, making it more vulnerable to a stronger yen than its nearest rivals. Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-biggest carmaker, built a quarter of its vehicles in Japan and Honda Motor Co. about 30 percent.

Toyota is basing this year’s profit forecasts on an exchange rate of 80 yen to the dollar and 105 yen to the euro. The stronger yen cut operating profit by 250 billion yen in the year ended March 31, Toyota said today. The company plans to increase research and development spending 3.9 percent to 810 billion yen and capital expenditure 16 percent.

For Toyoda, the natural disasters followed the crisis he oversaw during 2009 and 2010, when defects related to unintended acceleration led to the recall of more than 10 million vehicles — more than Toyota has sold in its best year.

“We want this year to be a calm year,” Toyoda said today. “It’s only been five months, but we expect everyone’s efforts to shine this year.”

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Toyota Back in the Game, Auto Sales Are the Best in 4 Years


DETROIT – Toyota made a big comeback last month after two years of struggles in the United States, helping the auto industry post its best April results in four years, new figures showed on Tuesday.

Toyota’s sales in the American market increased 12 percent in April, and its market share climbed to 15 percent, the highest point in 17 months, according to The New York Times.

Over all, industry sales rose 2 percent.

Toyota more than doubled sales of its Prius hybrid from a year ago, when prices surged and availability plunged after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. It came within about 1,600 units of outselling the Ford Motor Company, whose sales fell 5 percent.

General Motors had a down month as well, with sales falling 8 percent and its market share dipping to 18 percent from 20.1 percent in April 2011. Having spent the last two years stealing customers from Toyota — first as the Japanese automaker dealt with huge recalls and then after last year’s disasters knocked out much of its production — Detroit will clearly have its hands full again this year, analysts said.

“Toyota’s recovery is ‘mission accomplished,’ much earlier than we thought,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president for industry trends and insight at the automotive research Web site TrueCar.com. “Their buyers are evidently more loyal than we thought.”

Sales increased 20 percent for Chrysler, a slowdown from its recent pace of growth.

Nissan’s sales were flat, and Honda’s fell 2 percent.

Volkswagen reported a 27 percent increase.

Hyundai, Subaru and Mercedes each set company records for April.

G.M. and Ford attributed their declines to fewer selling days this April and reductions in deliveries to car rental companies. But they are also suddenly up against tougher competition from Toyota, which has recently introduced two additional versions of the Prius and a redesigned Camry — the country’s top-selling midsize sedan.

Robert S. Carter, a Toyota group vice president, said those two nameplates were increasingly drawing in buyers new to the brand. But, Mr. Carter said, Toyota is still ramping up production of the Camry and Prius, causing dealers to lose out on some sales.

“Frankly, if we had more Priuses and more Camrys, there’s a bit more volume out there for us,” Mr. Carter said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re having the largest year that we’ve ever had in our history with new product launches.”

Toyota’s performance has surprised many analysts in that it has regained its lost market share without offering big discounts, as carmakers traditionally have done when recovering from a tough period. In fact, Toyota spent less on incentives last month than it did a year ago.

Honda, which also is working to rebound from a bad 2011, increased its discounts significantly with little to show for it. Honda’s incentives as a percentage of vehicle prices reached a record in April, according to TrueCar.

Toyota “did this by the virtue of their products,” Mr. Toprak said. “They’re spending significantly less on incentives than Honda, and Honda hasn’t been able to recover as well.”

Despite its sales decline, G.M. said it was raising its forecast for total industry sales in 2012 by 500,000 vehicles, to a range of 14 million to 14.5 million. Auto sales last surpassed 14 million in 2007.

“We expect gradual improvement in the economy going forward,” Don Johnson, G.M.’s vice president for United States sales operations, said in a statement. “Over time, strength in the manufacturing sector and strong retail sales will lead to more job creation. That will help more consumers put the recession behind them, gain even more confidence and drive vehicle sales higher for both the industry and G.M.”

For the first time this year, gasoline prices ended the month lower than they started it. On Tuesday, the national average price of regular gas was $3.809 a gallon, down from $3.925 a month ago and $3.943 a year ago, according to the AAA motor club.

Gas prices near $4 a gallon have prompted some consumers to buy smaller vehicles, but are not causing overall sales to decline, as happened when prices rose sharply in 2008. Analysts said consumers were increasingly viewing high gas prices as a reason to trade in their current vehicle for a more efficient one.

“Rising gas prices are actually accelerating rather than discouraging new car purchases, as new vehicles have significantly better fuel economy,” Peter Nesvold, an analyst with Jefferies & Company, wrote in a research note.

April had three fewer selling days, excluding Sundays and holidays, than it did a year ago. That much disparity has happened only twice in the last decade, and fewer selling days make it more difficult for automakers to match or exceed their year-ago results.

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