Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's Official - Toyota is No. 1

CBS News

(AP) Toyota Motor Corp. became the world's top auto seller in the first three months of the year, passing rival General Motors Corp. for the first time, the Japanese automaker said Tuesday.

While GM has struggled to shore up earnings with job cuts and plant closures, Toyota has expanded rapidly, thanks partly to the popularity of its fuel-efficient cars.

It ain't just gas mileage. It's also a matter of Toyota's reputation for reliability, quality, and perceived value for money.

Also, Toyota is thinking many years ahead in its business plan. They spent more money developing their hybrids than GM is worth.

GM, like most American companies, doesn't think past its next quarterly report. They're trying desperately to revive the electric car they developed and then axed when the oil companies got to them. Their reliance on sales of SUVs and pickups with big engines in this day of $3+ gasoline ain't helpin', neither.

They're playin' catch-up ball. Poorly. They're a day late and a dollar short with what the market wants. Their focus on short-term profit and product complacency, i.e. depending on vehicles that have sold well for years instead of investing to develop new ones, is hurting them. This ain't exactly a bolt out of the blue, except to the bean counters and backward-thinking execs with blinders on.

Also, GM's problems may be the best demonstration in the country of why we need universal health care. It's been said that GM is actually a health care provider that manufactures cars to pay for it. I think it comes to about $1500 per vehicle.

I've had three brand-new Chevy trucks in the last forty years. They were very good trucks. Tellingly, and a glimpse of today, the best one in terms of reliability and gas mileage, though not in terms of power and load capacity, was actually an Isuzu with 'Chevrolet' stamped on the tailgate. A few years back, their quality went all to shit and I switched to used Dodges. Still good trucks, but not up to the quality of the older ones. It must be said that in the 'old days' we expected less from a pickup than we do today, and we got it. They're still makin' 'em like that, but these days it's not acceptable. Not when the goddam things cost as much as my first house!

I've got a Toyota now and it's terrific. And by the way, my Tacoma was built in California, not in Canada or Mexico like the 'American' makes.

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