When shopping for a vehicle, most people want a car that has a little bit of everything: a reliable product with up-to-date technology, that’s soft on the eyes to boot. This is exactly the kind of vehicle Toyota aims to produce with every model, so it’s no wonder they have become one of the biggest brands in the auto industry.
Driving a Clear Vision
Toyota is guided in business by a detailed vision, which includes leveraging its spot near the top of the industry to create progress, and even developing new means of transportation outside of the cars that have earned them global success.
This vision is complemented by the Toyota guiding principles, which essentially boil down to conducting business with an eye on progress, but never disrespecting anyone or employing unsavory methods in the process.
Today, Toyota operates two brands: its namesake (Toyota) and the more luxurious Lexus. Within these brands, you’ll find sports cars, SUVs, utility vehicles, and virtually any other type of automobile in existence. With high yearly output and a reputation for quality, this Japanese carmaker seems destined for continued success.
From David to Goliath
Launched in 1933, Toyota released its first vehicle in 1936. The company faced strife in the 1940s when its facilities were ruined during World War II, and the Japanese economy was in disarray. Only a few years later, though, Toyota was back to production in the 1950s.
Despite fierce competition from American auto manufacturers, Toyota marketed its first car to the United States in 1957. It wasn’t until 1965, when the company released the Corona, that they had any real success in the U.S.
Toyota began acquiring other brands, and opened a U.S. manufacturing plant in conjunction with GM in 1986. Things just expanded more rapidly from there; Toyota became increasingly popular in America for its cars’ reliability and fuel efficiency.
The Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, an item that Toyota first brought to market in 1999. In this way, Toyota was one of the first auto manufacturers to Go Green. The company became the world’s biggest auto manufacturer in 2008, but subsequently faced financial fallout due to the recession and a series of recalls.
Today, Toyota continues to unveil new styles that cater to a younger demographic, all the while working to innovate toward more sustainable vehicles.
A New Game
Times have changed drastically since Toyota first arrived in the United States. While companies like Ford and GM are certainly still an important part of the landscape, they’re nowhere near Toyota and its main competitors.
Though Toyota is miles ahead of the next-largest auto manufacturer, companies like Volkswagen, Dailmer (which owns Mercedes Benz), and Honda take a bite out of Toyota’s global market share. All the same, Toyota still has a valuation double that of Volkswagen (which comes in second), and the two were founded in the same year, so this rivalry has had more than 80 years to mature.
With newcomer Tesla growing rapidly, and luxury brands like Mercedes holding steadfast, the next few years will show whether Toyota has what it takes to keep up with the evolving landscape of the auto industry.
Capitalizing on Story
As the global force that it is, Toyota doesn’t have to work all that hard to stay visible, but their marketing team puts in the effort anyway. One of the ways Toyota makes its products desirable is by attaching them to a human story.
For example, a 2019 Toyota Superbowl Ad featured female football player Toni Harris discussing her own life, and likening her ability to exceed expectations to Toyota’s Rav 4.
Much in the same way, nostalgia is an easy pathway for emotional connection. As Toyota gears up to re-release a sports car that has been off the market for more than 20 years, they have a unique advantage. This car was featured in video games, as well as the Fast & Furious movies, so cult followings will likely love the fact that the new iteration features a similar body to the old one.
Toyota began issuing mass recalls around 2009 for a number of reasons, one of the most troubling of which was a defect that caused their cars to accelerate uncontrollably. The issue was brought to light following a family’s tragic death, and Toyota began recalling affected models—but not all of them.
In an attempt to save face (and money) Toyota failed to recall some of the most popular brands that were susceptible to this issue, including the Corolla. When this attempted cover up was realized, Toyota had much bigger problems on its hands.
Eventually, the company was ordered to pay $1.3 billion in 2014 for the way they handled the entire incident. Perhaps they were just too big to face major public backlash, but Toyota’s strong value today indicates little lasting effect from the ordeal.
On the Forbes list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, Toyota sits at number 9, higher than any other auto manufacturer. With a brand value of $44.6 billion, Toyota saw no change in value by Forbes’ estimation between 2018 and 2019.
Fortune’s Global 500 puts Toyota at number 6, as compared to its ranking of 5 last year, speaking to a stall in the company’s growth. Perhaps up-and-coming brands are taking a bite out of Toyota, or perhaps its an industry lull. In any case, with more than $22 million in profit last year, Toyota has nothing to worry about just yet.
What started as a small operation in Japan has become the world’s biggest auto company by far; time will tell how Toyota responds to the modern developments in the industry—they will either rise to the occasion and innovate as they have in the past, or prove (like so many other car companies) unable to adapt after reaching massive success.