Strategic vehicles key to Toyota’s dream

by Asako Takaguchi

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., declared at a meeting held Nov. 1 to announce the company’s consolidated performance in the first-half of the current business year that his aim is to turn the company into the world’s largest.

“Global sales in 2006 will be on the 8.5 million-vehicle level,” he said after announcing Toyota’s midterm net profit was a whopping 584 billion yen.

Toyota President Fujio Cho, who was with Okuda at the meeting, said the speed and scale of the company’s production overseas are in “a territory we have never experienced.”

About 200,000 people attended a three-day event in Bangkok that began Sept. 3 to promote sales of the Hilux Vigo pickup truck as one of Toyota’s strategic international multipurpose vehicles for new markets.

Under the IMV scheme, Toyota is developing vehicles overseas to best suit local demand. It also procures parts locally to lower production costs.

The Vigo is the first IMV, and 14,000 were sold in September alone. More than 54,000 are on order, a much better performance than initially expected.

In Thailand, the automobile industry is concentrated. In Southeast Asia, free trade is in progress with regional tariffs lowered.

An expanded auto market due to economic recovery can be expected in Thailand. The country is best for Toyota’s IMV project.

IMVs are not built in Japan, so there was a cautious view in Toyota’s procurement and distribution divisions that nothing could be done if locally supplied parts were to be stopped.

In many Southeast Asian countries, the political situation and the foundation of parts supplies are unstable.

The Toyota group’s parts manufacturers have strongly supported the IMV project.

“This is the best chance to aim at expanding global sales,” said Takashi Matsuura, president of Toyoda Gosei Co.

Denso Corp. has cut costs by more than a target set by Toyota.

“Let’s aim at achieving the world’s lowest costs,” said Shinji Takeuchi, president of Denso’s locally incorporated company.

“There can be no IMV unless all parts suppliers do complete work,” said an official at a Japanese-affiliated automaker in Thailand.

Toyota has launched IMV production in Indonesia. It will do likewise in South Africa and Argentina next year.

Parts supplies and vehicle production will be done in 10 countries. Sales will be promoted in about 140 countries.

The global sales of 8.5 million vehicles targeted by Okuda are equal to the 2003 performance by General Motors Co. of the United States, the largest automaker in the world.

To achieve that target, the contribution from IMVs to be mass-produced is indispensable.

“We have packed all Toyota experiences and knowhow” into the project, Toyota Vice President Kosuke Shiramizu said.