Being the Biggest Carmaker Makes You the Biggest Loser
Like the cars we drive, the food we eat needs to come with an emotional response attached. I for one would buy freshly baked bread for ten times the price if I knew it was made with care and consideration for what I want, not some time constraint or production cycle.
But somewhere along the line we lost sight of that aspect and are all jumping onto the same old bandwagon of caring who’s the biggest automaker in the world. I’m talking about Toyota, who are once again the top dogs of the industry. People who see cars as just a nuisance, a necessary evil, think being the biggest makes them the best, the safest, the most reliable. But that’s just a bunch of baloney, and you’re a big pickle for believing it.
About half of Toyota’s production comes from Japan, and so, when natural disasters steamrolled the country, production and sales suffered. But a few days ago, they announced that they are once again the biggest, the baddest and greatest. Thanks to great cars like the Corolla, Liva and Etos, Toyota sold more than GM and Volkswagen in 2012.
Did I say great? I meant to say completely average and boring of course, like a bunch of no-brand Coca Cola cans. You probably never heard of a “Liva”, but it count a hundred times more for Toyota than the Lexus LFA or GT 86 coupe that supposedly give this otherwise boring company its soul.
Toyota became number one because General Motors wasn’t good enough any more, because they made cars that were reliable, cars that came with a long warranty, cars that were economical and light and sometimes cars that were also fun, like the legendary Supra. But being at the top now makes Toyota the biggest looser of them all. The Japoboxes are the ones that aren’t good enough today, and within a five years or so, people will figure that out.
To stay at the top, they are having to cut corners, use old platforms and offer the cheapest forms of motoring. To see what they’re doing wrong, we’re not going to compare them to GM, we’re going to compare them to Volkswagen, who are playing it a little bit safer, though still aiming for the top in 2018.
The VW Polo has been on sale in Europe since 2009, while Toyota’s Yaris is about a year old. Yet despite similar prices, Toyota’s supermini has no turbo engines and no double-clutch gearbox option. Go a step above that and the same differences exist between the Golf and the Corolla, and again a size above that. Sure, Toyota has developed a new platform here and there, but VW has a whole new engine family as well, and GM’s Opel division isn’t far behind.
This probably makes no sense right now, but here’s something to sink you ranting teeth into: the VW Golf has 2 and a bit generations worth of turbo gasoline engine development. Even though the Corolla is still one of the top selling cars in the world, you’d never see Ford, Opel or VW copying any of their technologies or design.
Sooner of later, Toyota will have to realize Valvematic and VVT-i isn’t enough any more, and by that time it will be too late. People will say “remember when Toyota was the biggest carmaker in the world?”, just like they recall the good ol’ days when people only bought American.
Being the undisputed heavyweight champion doesn’t make you the strongest. It just means you have the most people after your belt. At the moment, there’s no indication the Big T will go under, but the cards are stacked against them. Either they get with the program, fix ALL their safety problems, switch to diesel and turbo tech, or they’ll become the big No.2 by the end of the decade.
comments written so far
What a logical fallacy.
Engine output is FAR from the only criteria people look for when buying a car. If anything, reliability, all-around comfort, and ease of maintenance would be a higher priority on the average joe's list.
Less mechanical parts = less parts to maintain, and therefore a lower likelihood that something will go awry.
Simple IS better.
Don't go around touting a racehead's opinion and passing it off as superior.
I don't think I got it wrong when it came to the Polo and the Golf. Their main rivals from Renault, Ford or Citroen are now using small turbopetrol engines and double-clutch automatic gearboxes as well. If I pay ?13,000 for the Yaris, I want a turbo and a good gearbox. The car is no cheaper than a Ford Fiesta (prices will differ from market to market).
Meanwhile, the Corolla is a best seller, but not in the competitive European market. And even though they are getting ready to launch a replacement, I haven't heard of any cool new tech that's going to be used.