Wind up the clock for the Toyota death watch?

Hard to pick a quote from the links below, but here is one:

“Instilling creative thinking is a work in progress. A few times a week, video screens around Hyundai’s headquarters in Seoul show a one-minute clip that has become a favorite among staffers. It shows an open office where workers wearing the same shirt and haircut are beavering away. Then a new person arrives with a different hair cut. Each time he voices an idea, the others shout him down. Eventually he gets the same haircut and everybody likes him. Then a question appears: ‘Aren’t we stuck in conventional thinking?’”

Basically, Hyundai has emerged from the last few years as one of the rising stars. If you haven’t looked at the sales chart lately, take a look. Toyota and Honda have lost 21% year on year compared to June 2010. Moreover, they are the only companies reporting loss of sales (brands are another story of course).

I think the quote above speaks to why. The Corolla and Civic have both been renewed for 2011. Did anyone notice? Both look like earlier (read worse) preliminary concepts of the cars they replace. It’s as though they were out of ideas. If anyone noticed, Mr. Toyoda teased the new Camry today. Don’t hurry too much to Google, it looks like the old one. What a horrible cul-de-sac to be stuck in!

Once a Global Also-Ran, Hyundai Zooms Forward

“In terms of momentum, [Hyundai] is a bigger threat right now than anyone else,” says Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of GM, who still consults for the Detroit car maker. “I worry about them a lot.”

Toyota and Honda are definitely on a downslope but I would not even get the death watch out of the drawer . Once production gets going again the numbers will get better, but they won’t get back to where they were and there are lots of reasons. For one, I think US automakers are gaining back their reputation. They have come out of their huge slump when they almost died and are regaining market. Next are companies like Hyundai who have been in the game for a long time, but now they are becoming major players. In a economic downturn such as we have been in, people don’t always give things up as much as downgrade. So lower cost cars like Hyundai and Kia have a bigger base of buyers. That being said, they are making better cars then they used to, and their reputation is improving.

With more auto companies on even ground, I hope the competition forces better design, better quality and better prices. No one will be able to play it safe.

Did that tsunami have anything to do with that?

Design - actual little ‘d’ styling - is one area where the advancements in process made by Toyota have not made as much of a positive impact. Their reputation for reliability and quality seems to hamper the sense of adventure in pursuing new styling approaches. Phil Patton skewered both companies in his ‘auto design report card’, and even Car Styling (the expensive Japanese periodical) beat up on Lexus for its incoherent styling strategy. The Korean cars by contrast are still more or less aping the luxury German autos but they are getting better at it.

I liked the articles emphasis on being a follower, and how that changes when you become the leader. Honda is an expensive brand (especially in Australia), very different to the 1974 Civic my parents bought new. A base Civic (manual, white) now is between $26k to $34k, whereas a Hyundai I-30 (great little car) is $19k to $23k.

It’s easy to compete on price, but everyone can do it. That said the Civic is a sensational looking car- the cab forward look makes it, but is it worth an extra 10 grand?

Not sure if these ads are just in Canada…
But I’m certain that this Civic ad featuring the zombie and the lumberjack is the source of all of Honda’s problems.

No. They’re here, too. And they’re awful.

I’ve worked in a Lean environment where the chairman was trained in by Toyota. That funny little description is EXACTLY what happens in a Lean environment. Creative thinking is pushed away for some menial metric increase. Something like “Hey, it took us 2.7 seconds less to weld that critical piece on to that fixture than the last kaizen event. Great job guys! Get back to work!”

It has a ton to do with it. In fact they just announced plans to cut production in Brazil and Argentina because of parts shortage from Japan.

Toyota reported a production decline of 46.5% in Japan in May, compared to the year before. Sales volume in Japan declined by 47.4% in May, while overseas production fell 43.3% and worldwide production fell 44.7%. If you drew a graph, those lines would match up pretty well. But, Toyota should not fool itself into thinking production is it’s only problem, they face the same problem GM faced, getting stale.

Exactly. In the short term, the tsunami had everything to do with reduced sales. However, prior to March 11, 2011 there were plenty of things going wrong with Honda and Toyota.

I remember an article about Six Sigma into 3M, something like: “time for innovation will be between 9.30am and 10am”.

Take a look at the North American numbers (the ones I know where to find). Mitsubishi (although from a very low spot) up 97% from last year, Nissan up 16%, Suzuki 12%, Mazda 5%, Subaru is down, but by 8% (could be people are waiting for the '12 Impreza).

Is there some reason that the tsunami and earthquake effected only Toyota and Honda (and Nissan’s Infiniti division) leaving all the other Japanese car companies high and dry? Possibly, I honestly don’t know.

Civic: A tale of a good car gone bad.

This one was a step ahead in styling. I think they successfully translated their sleek aerodynamic efficient look into something mainstream.

This thing looks like a Chinese knock off. Five years behind where they already were. I’ve seen a couple on the streets in Montreal (Civic is the #2 selling car in Quebec, behind the Mazda 3…don’t ask). I shudder when I see them. Ugh, how the mighty have fallen.

Here is what Toyota has done:

I feel like Jeremy Clarkson must have when he last reviewed a Toyota Corolla. It’s so horribly bland there is nothing to say really. In a year where everyone seems to be upping the game (ie Hyundai Elantra - new, Chevy Cruze - new, Ford Focus - new, Subaru Impreza - heavy redesign, Honda Civic - attempted heavy redesign) Toyota tosses a slow one over the plate with their 2006 model with new headlights. Ouch.

For those interested, I’ve posted this a few times before: Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

Japanese cars excelled at a time when the biggest decisions in buying a car were around reliability and long term resale value - which is still their core value.

Now though, almost all cars are “good enough”, and when you have Hyundai offering a 100k warranty with less money and extremely compelling value and design it’s caused them to sky rocket. The new Kia Rio5 coming out is unbelievable, the leaps made in 1 generation are like nothing the car industry has really seen…makes me want to trade my Acura in for one.

not to defend engineering, but innovation comes in all forms. reducing cost without impacting quality takes a lot of creativity. Not the kind we rely on, not consumer centric - unless you include the value of increasingly disposable commodoities becoming ever cheaper, like Hyundai.

It’s cus nobody wants to be mad tite jdm anymore… :cry:


All joking aside, Honda and Toyota have been failing a pushing the design envalope of their new products. Hundia has been doing neat viral placements with their new Euuuuuuuuuuvvvvvvvmmmmmmiiiiiii (whatever) luxury car. I was in Cracker park out side of Cleveland and I saw one parked on the street next to a m6 and a e55 amg, I’d bet it was staged as the Hundai had dealer tags, and looked pretty sharp next to them too. Honda must step things up, or at the very least start dropping their EU and JDM targeted versions in the US, they just look way better. Toyota has been doing better but things everybody wants a prius. Also they should be making some coin off licencing the synergy drive system to other manufactures (ie BMW).

Milk Toast.

Creativity isn’t a problem for Honda and Toyota, it’s when they started making creatively ugly cars that things went downhill.

All of these organizations have great designers. I have friends at many of them, and frog does a lot of work in this sector. It is not a lack of ideas, or talent, or ability. Large, established organizations often struggle with risk management.

That’s what I don’t get. I don’t think they are less successful because they are taking too few risks, but rather because they are taking more risks, and taking ugly ones. I think slapping 5 conflicting surfaces on the back of an accord is a bad risk, or trying to outdo old domestic cars in terms of ugliness and bulbousness is a bad risk.

If anything, I think they are taking too many risks. Their designs used to be generic, inoffensive, and ordinary in a good way (90s Hondas to a T). Now they’re insectoid, alien-like, and busy.

Yo!: Yeah, it’s a decision making problem. It’s clear that Honda and Toyota are more scared to lose what they have than risk trying to grow. Moreover, they are dominated by people who came up through the ranks by improving quality and cutting costs. Those people have a hard time understanding how building a more expensive product can be more profitable. They will evolve or die, but it’s sad in any case.

Cameron: I agree with you too, except that their designs are a logical extension of where their designs were taking them. However, they get hit in two ways:

  1. Someone is clearly pinching pennies. Some of these designs might be good with different proportions (restricted by trying to reuse a platform) or with better material quality.

  2. The market has moved on. Both makes are continuing re-writing a 10 year old script. However, society has moved on. We are in a post iAesthetic world now, a post-Bangle BMW flame surfacing world. These guys are cheap feeling, mid-1990’s Fords.