Sunday, December 10, 2006

All Hail Toyota!

Sell your GM stock, they’re doomed. Ford too. When I was in Tokyo I visited the Amlux Toyota Showroom, a 4 floor showcase of everything Toyota sells in Japan. It’s a full house. It’s no secret that Toyota is stomping domestic rivals in North America. But now I see that in the North American market Toyota is playing with one hand tied behind it’s back. In Japan they sell everything from a small scooter to the Toyota Century, it lists for close to $100,000. They sell more different kinds of SUV’s in Japan then they do in the US and their US lineup is fat with SUV’s. In Japan Toyota sells small cars, large cars, even a small car with a passenger seat that doubles as a wheelchair. Great looking Toyotas with goofy Japanese car names like Alphard, Ipsum, Passo, Fielder, Ractis, Wish, Brevis, Progres (not a typo), Rush, and Spacio. All this in a small country where gasoline costs close to $5 for a US gallon. Although I saw a Japanese made Camry at the Amlux Showroom I don’t think I saw one on the streets of Tokyo. It’s commonly accepted that Japan is a small country with expensive gasoline and the Japanese drive small cars. Some do but I saw plenty of big cars, both Japanese and European, plying the streets of Tokyo. There was no shortage of large Mercedes, Audis and BMWs, even big expensive ones. I did see one Chevrolet Suburban in a parking spot on a Tokyo street and there was overhang of the marked parking space both front and rear. Another surprise was the small number of Priuses (Priii?) I saw on the streets of Tokyo. I saw some but it doesn’t seem to be the statement of fashion, environmental righteousness and virtue in Japan that Prius ownership implies in the US where gasoline costs half as much as it does in Japan. From what I sawToyota pretty much dominates the market. They have a car for every market niche and if market conditions in North America change Toyota will be waiting.