Beyond What’s Possible

Investing in new technologies and delivering great new products will help propel dealers and Toyota
by Karen Nielsen
May/June 2017
Beyond What’s Possible
Focus on the Future
Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda said he’s keenly focused on incorporating new technology and innovative thinking into everything Toyota delivers to customers. Photos by Brian Payne
Akio Toyoda is revved up and motivated.

He’s motivated to ensure Toyota’s American story is heard. Motivated to deliver the right mix of products at the right time and the right price. And motivated to produce the volume that will keep Toyota ahead of the competition.

The Toyota Motor Corporation president laid out his vision at the National Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas in May, and noted the competition isn’t the obvious players.

“In my opinion, the competition is those who have the technology and the ambition to disrupt our industry, companies like Google, Tesla, Amazon and Apple,” he said.

It’s why he’s recently created the Toyota Research Institute, Toyota Connected and an Electric Vehicle Division.

“Because we need to think beyond where we are today,” Toyoda said.

A Stellar Run

Toyota has enjoyed five years as the No. 1 selling automotive retail brand in the U.S., and the Camry has been the best-selling car for 15 years running.

So far, 2017 finds Toyota on the tailwind of six years of industry growth. Toyota has continued to break light truck sales records, with RAV4 up 12 percent; Highlander 20 percent; 4Runner 24 percent; and RAV4 and Highlander hybrids up 30 percent.
 

What’s New
Toyota's Jeanice Lee gives a tech demo to (from left, clockwise) Julius Lee, Jack Thompson and Laura Barnes, all of Thompson Toyota, and Jeremiah Knight (center) of Saatchi & Saatchi.



Consumers’ preference for SUVs over sedans doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The good news is that Toyota has increased its mix of SUV sales to 58 percent this year compared to 53 percent last year. But with overall consumer demand at 64 percent for SUVs and trucks, it’s not quite where it could be. 

Increased production at Toyota plants in Indiana, Texas and Baja, California, is helping make headway in the right direction, Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations, Bill Fay said at the dealer meeting.

“Having one of the country’s best-selling SUVs is not the worst problem,” he said of the thriving RAV4. “But we know you need more, and believe me, it’s our top priority.”

The launch of the C-HR in April gives Toyota an exciting new product in the Entry SUV segment, one of the hottest and fastest-growing markets in the industry. Sales are expected to double to 63,000 next year.
 

What’s New
David Griffith of Griffith Toyota talks technology with Toyota’s Shawn Bethelmy.



Toyota also is making investments in Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) to the tune of $1.33 billion at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK). The primary objective of TNGA is to use a common platform to significantly increase performance and produce an appealing and attractive car.

The next-generation 2018 Camry will be the first TNGA vehicle assembled in North America, at TMMK, and there’s never been a better time to reignite the midsize sedan segment than with this head turner.

“With the Camry launching soon, I believe we will see some stabilization of midsize sedan sales and, who knows, maybe even a little growth,” said Bob Carter, executive vice president, Sales for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “We feel really good about our prospects in the midsize sedan segment, which is the second largest in the industry and a segment that still defines the entire industry.”

With 10 manufacturing plants, 1,300 dealerships and more than 25 million vehicle sales to date, Toyota has been part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. for nearly 60 years.

“Our new headquarters, deep in the heart of Texas, as they say, is just another example of our long-term commitment to this country,” Toyoda said.
 

Diverse Interests
TMNA CEO Jim Lentz pointed to several ways Toyota is working to anticipate the future by investing in sustainable growth.


Investing in the Future

TMNA CEO Jim Lentz pointed to several examples of how Toyota is working to anticipate the future by investing in sustainable growth.

Toyota Research Institute was formed a year ago to pursue, invent and develop new technologies, including an autonomous platform built from the ground up. Over the next four years, TRI will invest $35 million in research that uses artificial intelligence to help accelerate the discovery of advanced materials to make batteries and fuel cell catalysts.

“This development of new battery technology will support both our fuel cell and electric car efforts, which we will continue to pursue, as well as hybrids, because we believe diversity makes for the strongest portfolio,” Lentz said. “It’s still too early to say which technology may win the race, but we’d just as soon have more than one dog in the hunt, as they say where I live now.”

Toyota Connected, which set up shop in Plano, Texas, near Toyota’s new North American headquarters, is using cutting-edge data analytics to support product development that will improve the customer experience.

Exploring new growth areas, mastering the “seamless integration of online and instore, of bricks and clicks” and focusing on continuous improvement are drivers for success, said Jack Hollis, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager.

“If we do all of these things we will continue to lead the way and represent the very best in our business,” he said, noting his goal is to be No. 1 in service and parts volume, sales volume, guest experience and relationships.

And that, keeps Akio Toyoda motivated.

“Together, we must continue to believe not just what’s possible, but what’s beyond possible,” he says.
   

Next Level
The Concept-i is an example of how Toyota is using artificial intelligence to enhance the relationship between car and driver.

 

More Growth
Toyota’s U.S. investment has been significant over the last 60 years and another $10 billion is planned over the next five years, said Bob Carter, executive vice president, Sales for TMNA.

 

Say Cheese!
Akio Toyoda takes a selfie with dealers after the National Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas.

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