Battered by expensive crises, Toyota tries rebirth

Agencies
Tokyo
First Published: 21:33 IST(3/1/2013)
Last Updated: 12:19 IST(4/1/2013)
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The pink Toyota Crown sedan that took center stage at a holiday event here last week was meant to shock, and it did.

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The Crown, the preferred ride of staid Japanese executives, had received an edgy makeover. With a new oversize grille, vamped-up hybrid engine and an unveiling at a fashion mall, there was nothing stodgy about this car.

“Reborn,” read a logo beamed onto a large screen.

“My initial reaction was: ‘You’re kidding! Please, not pink,’ ” Akio Toyoda, the Toyota chief executive and a scion of the Japanese automaker’s founding family, told reporters at the event. “But being reborn does mean taking on new challenges.”

Toyota has spent much of the last year trying to leave behind what has been a tumultuous four years in which the automaker booked its largest loss ever, became embroiled in a recall scandal, struggled with a decimated supply chain after the 2011 tsunami and weathered the punishing effects of a strong yen.

One by one, the pieces have been falling into place.

In 2012, Toyota leapfrogged General Motors and Volkswagen to regain its title as the world’s largest automaker, selling 9.7 million vehicles, a record for the company. Now the company is on the cusp of a recovery, analysts say, that could put it on track to post the kind of growth promised before the crises.

Last week, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a class-action suit over claims that its electronic malfunctions caused its cars to accelerate without warning.

The company supply chain bounced back more quickly than predicted and profits are on the rise.

And there is a loud message of change being sounded through the stepped-up emphasis on design — with both Toyota and Lexus models getting new looks, including the pink Crown.

New York Times


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