Toyota to share car costs
Toyota plans to counter the global financial squeeze, write PAUL GOVER and PETER LYON in Japan
CRISIS meetings have been held in Tokyo as the world’s largest carmaker faces up to the global financial crisis and a huge showroom downturn at home.
Toyota is looking for the best ways to recover from a backward slide in Japanese sales and prevent any major damage on the global scene, and is turning to Subaru and Daihatsu for answers.
It has confirmed a product sharing plan with Fuji Heavy Industries, which will spawn sports models with Subaru technology, and more small-car work with Daihatsu.
The new developments, and particularly a promised Toyota sports car with Subaru all-wheel drive, has obvious implications for Australia. And Toyota is also looking to supply small cars that can be badged and sold in Subaru showrooms.
‘‘If you look at it in the context of Toyota, it could be pretty exciting stuff. But it’s too early to know just yet,’’ Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Dave Buttner says.
‘‘The basic stance is that, while the companies will be doing joint development, the products will be marketed under their own brand names. It’s a very good affiliation that will lead to some strong products down the track.
‘‘To be developing sports cars with a brand that is aspirational sounds pretty good. And the sports cars will have an eco focus, which will be an advantage for Subaru and Fuji Heavy Industries,’’ Buttner says.
Toyota boss Katsuaki Watanabe convened the Tokyo summit last week with the company’s satellites heads — Ikuo Mori of Subaru and Teruyuki Minoura of Daihatsu — to find ways to cut costs and share development budgets.
Japan’s vehicle market, the world’s third largest, fell to a 26-year low last fiscal year because of declining wages and a shrinking population. Rising prices for steel, aluminium and rubber are also applying pressure.
Daiwa SB Investments spokesman Koichi Ogawa says: ‘‘Small cars will become more and more important globally as customers opt for fuel-efficient models.’’
So the outcome of the summit is firm plans on several fronts.
Toyota plans to double its stake in Fuji Heavy to 17 per cent.
Toyota and Subaru will codevelop compact rear-wheel-drive sports cars based on the Impreza’s boxer engine and mechanical layout, with the two companies selling their own models by 2011. Both cars will be built at Subaru’s factory at Gunma, Japan.
Toyota will also create its own all-wheel-drive sports car based on the current Impreza.
In addition, Toyota will supply compact cars to Subaru, while Daihatsu supplies baby cars such as the Koo to Subaru.
The three companies already have close ties: Toyota builds its Camry sedan in Subaru’s US plant and Daihatsu supplies a small car to Subaru for sales in Europe.
Though the Japanese are preparing for tougher times, Toyota Australia is still waiting for the shakeout from the latest financial developments at home.
‘‘I think it’s too early to call. We’re not panicking yet. The market is still tracking towards our forecast of 1,070,000 (sales),’’ Buttner says.
One for the money: to cut
costs and development budgets, Toyota (right) will
supply compact cars to Subaru. Toyota already builds its Camry sedan (below) in
Subaru’s US factory.