Highlights of the year’s major events forMotor Corp.
• After a difficult 2009,begins 2010 seemingly overwhelmed by negatives: steep monthly sales declines; its first U.S. plant closure (NUMMI in California); and a devastating recall of 4.3 million vehicles over floor mats following a deadly crash of a Lexus in San Diego in August 2009.
• At the Detroit auto show in January, Toyota unveils its FT-CH concept dedicated hybrid-electric vehicle; a production version could be part of a future Prius family of vehicles, the auto maker says. The auto maker confirms it is developing a “marketing strategy” for a Prius family in North America.
• Toyota falls from the top-10 list of best-selling cars in China in February against a market that rose 46.3% over year-ago to 1.21 million units. A survey by Chinese website sina.com finds 73.6% of 258,000 online respondents say they would not buy a Toyota brand vehicle after the Japanese auto maker’s recent safety recalls. Only 16.4% say they still prefer Japanese cars.
• After appearing on NBC’s “The Today Show” in February, a contrite Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., says a fix for 2.3 million vehicles with sticky accelerator pedals is on its way to dealers. The fix amounts to a reinforcement bar that will reduce excess friction. Some dealers will remain open 24 hours to handle the repairs.
• The auto maker in March lifts its global production plans 1% to 7.57 million vehicles for 2010, anticipating better demand in Japan and other Asian markets. The company had told suppliers in December it planned to produce 7.49 million vehicles in 2010.
• Toyota’s sterling reputation for quality and reliability further is tarnished by widespread recalls in the U.S. and overseas. “This shows Toyota is not bullet-proof,” a former domestic OEM safety executive tells Ward’s. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tells the Associated Press Toyota was “a little safety deaf” in its decision not to recall vehicles earlier.
• Toyota says in February an “overly sensitive antilock brake system” likely is to blame for faulty braking in ’10 Prius HEVs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. has been investigating Prius brakes that were weak. A separate investigation of Prius brakes is under way in Japan.
• Toyota estimates the cost of the recalls to have a negative ¥100 billion ($1.1 billion) impact on its full-year earnings, as well as a loss of 100,000 units in the period, mostly in North America. The auto maker sold 2.07 million vehicles worldwide in the fiscal third quarter on a consolidated basis, up 227,000 from year-ago.
• Jim Lentz says in Februaryis to blame for the planned closing of the New United Motor Mfg. joint venture plant in Fremont, CA. Both the United Auto Workers union and California politicians had pushed for Toyota to keep the California plant open. A deal eventually would be struck allowing Motors to assemble electric vehicles there.
• At a February hearing in Washington, the House Oversight Committee grills NHTSA’s LaHood, as well as TMC President Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder. Meanwhile, Toyota says it will begin to use black-box data for accident reconstruction.
• Toyota forecasts deliveries in India to nearly triple in 2011 to 150,000 vehicles from 2009 levels, as sales of its compact Etios cars get under way late in the first quarter. The compact car is being manufactured near Bangalore.
The auto maker says it will invest $103 million in India to produce engines and transmissions for Etios, developed for the local market. Another Toyota plant under construction in Brazil, with a 70,000-unit annual capacity, may begin making the Etios in mid-2012.
• Toyota agrees in April to pay a $16.4 million fine handed down by NHTSA after the U.S. safety agency finds the auto maker waited five months to report that some of its accelerator pedals could stick.
• The Prius plug-in hybrid is not due in the U.S. until 2012, but already the auto maker is forced to defend the PHEV’s relatively meager 13-mile (21-km) electric range against competitive brands that will enter the market before then.
• Toyota reports its best operating profit in two years, beating market estimates. For the April-June quarter, the auto maker reports an operating profit of ¥211.7 billion ($2.47 billion) thanks to a sharp rise in vehicle sales, swinging from a loss of ¥194.9 billion ($2.36 billion) a year ago.
• Growing industry sales momentum and its earlier shutdown of NUMMI prompts the company in June to restart the launch of its new assembly plant in Blue Springs, MS. The auto maker had suspended the greenfield plant’s opening when the economy tanked in late 2008. Production of the Corolla is slated to begin in fall 2011.
• Toyota’s precipitous drop in the 2010 J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality Study, released in June, isn’t “the beginning of the end,” says David Sargent, an executive with the marketing firm. “In the 24 years we’ve conducted the study, Toyota has been better than average in the first 23 years.”
• Akio Toyoda tells journalists in Japan in July: “As early as possible, we would like to restore this trust, confidence placed by the customers in us. For the past year, I was leading the whole company in apology. In my second year, I want to be a leader who can express the gratitude on behalf of the company.”
• Serial production of 1.4L diesel engines gets under way at the Toyota Motor Industries Poland Sp. z o.o. plant in Jelcz-Laskowice, Poland, in the fourth quarter. The engine is destined for Toyota Yaris, Auris and Corolla models manufactured in France, the U.K., Turkey and South Africa. Production volume is targeted at 70,000 units on a full-year basis.
• Toyota says in September it has discovered and fixed a bug in the software that reads data from crash recorders. NHTSA says it has found no evidence of new defects based on an examination of 58 event data recorders. In more than half of the recorders that U.S. safety regulators examine, there is no indication drivers applied brakes.
• With an aggressive corporate average fuel economy mandate looming by 2016, Toyota in early autumn says it has ambitious plans to introduce six all-new HEVs, a plug-in hybrid and two electric vehicles by the end of 2012. A hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle also is on tap for 2015, expected to be available in many parts of the U.S.
• Toyota Australia says it will manufacture a new fuel-efficient gasoline engine for the Camry and Hybrid Camry sedans at its plant in Altona, Melbourne. The A$300 million ($278 million) project, announced in September, will see more than 100,000 engines produced annually, beginning in second-half 2012.