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Toyota's Chairman Discusses Challenges Facing Worldwide Auto Industry

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Audio Topics:  Hiroshi Okuda, Toyota

Toyota's Chairman Discusses Challenges Facing Worldwide Auto Industry

John Birchard
September 13, 2003

Listen to Toyota's Chairman Discusses Challenges Facing Worldwide Auto Industry - RealPlayer - 372KB - 3:00

The chairman of Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation was in Washington this week, delivering a speech before 300 business people, lawmakers and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Hiroshi Okuda told the gathering about the challenges he sees facing the worldwide auto industry.

"Protecting the environment, improving safety and applying information technology are the three avenues of innovation we must travel in order to keep up with change and seize the opportunities it presents," he said.

Mr. Okuda sees opportunity in a growing population in the United States, increasing purchasing power in Russia and Eastern Europe, economic recovery in eastern Asia including his own country of Japan rapid growth of auto sales in China and gradual market expansion in India.

But with a growing number of vehicles on the world's highways, Toyota's chairman is concerned with environmental issues such as automobile emissions and global warming. He points to his company's leadership in hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, beginning six years ago.

"We now have sold about 150,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide, giving us a global hybrid market share of about 90 percent," said Mr. Okuda.

On the safety front, Toyota's chief says his people are working on active safety systems including Vehicle Stability Control, anti-lock brake systems and brake assist to avoid collisions in addition to passive safety technology such as air bags.

Chairman Okuda says his company is developing information technology for application in vehicles, both on its own and in cooperation with other carmakers.

He says the firm's focus on business basics produces good results for stockholders.

"Last year, Toyota sold more than six million vehicles in 140 countries," he said. "That was about 10 percent of global automobile sales putting us third behind General Motors and Ford."

Mr. Okuda closed his remarks by pointing out a shortcoming in Toyota's approach.

"Toyota is strong, but we have not been known for speed and agility in the past," he admitted. "However, all we need to do in order to succeed is adjust faster than our competitors. That's why I constantly point out the importance of speed. The more time we spend preparing to take action, the more likely we will be missing in action."

And he concluded: "If we can remain strong while getting faster… I'd bet on us." Most auto industry observers would say that is a pretty safe bet.

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