30 October 2003

Toyota sent shockwaves through last week’s Tokyo Motor Show by unveiling bold plans to become the world’s largest car maker by 2010. In a radical new strategy, known as Global 15, Japan’s biggest car maker told a gathering of its world distributors that it intends to achieve a 15 per cent global market share by 2010.

Currently, Toyota ranks third, behind Ford and General Motors, with around 11.5 per cent of the world’s annual new-car sales. GM holds a share of just over 14 per cent. If it achieves the 15 per cent target, Toyota will produce well over 8 million vehicles a year, compared to today’s 6.3 million. Fujio Cho, president of Toyota, told Autocar: ‘We had Global 10 back in the ’80s to achieve a 10 per cent global share and we never thought we would achieve that. Now we have set Global 15 as an informal aim for the whole company.’

Toyota believes the primary secret to meeting its target is attractive design: good-looking cars that entice new customers in to Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu showrooms.

You only need a brief glance at Toyota’s Tokyo concept cars to see the first fruits of its new design objectives. Insiders say the beautiful Lexus LF-S saloon (right) sets the overall styling theme for the all-new GS – as well as IS and LS – models, all due in 2005.

The LF-S establishes its own distinctive style language, an attractive look that’s carried across to the LF-X crossover SUV (pictured in gallery), also on display at the Tokyo show.

To emphasise design’s new-found status, Toyota recently moved its design department from its long-standing position under engineering. The head of design within Toyota now has equal ranking in the Japanese company’s complex hierarchy. At the same time Toyota is hiring new design talent for its Japanese, American and European studios.

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Clever manufacturing techniques will also aid Global 15. Toyota claims the next generation of new models due after 2005 will save a staggering 30 per cent in development and manufacturing costs over today’s equivalent models.

As part of the plan to increase productivity and take full advantage of its existing production capacity, Toyota’s manufacturing engineers claim to have devised assembly lines that are half the length of today’s.

Although not the company’s stated aim, the new target – if achieved – inevitably means that Toyota will overtake Ford and GM and become the world’s biggest car maker by volume. It’s already the most profitable.

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