Foreign Auto Ambition: New Plans for Global Domination from Toyota, VW, Honda

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These businesses sure do mean business. Honda says it’ll double sales within five years. Toyota plans to push the hybrid market—which it already dominates thanks to the Prius—into the next stratosphere. And Volkswagen has thrown down the gauntlet, announcing it’s going to just plain sell the most cars worldwide.

Here, a look at some of the ambitious plans announced by three major foreign automakers:

Automaker: Toyota
Goal: Roll out 21 new hybrids within three years

With the Prius achieving popular mainstream status, far outselling any other hybrid globally and in the U.S., Toyota clearly dominates the hybrid market. There’s no saying it’ll be dominant forever, though. Understanding that competition is growing tougher thanks to efforts from automakers like Ford, which is introducing impressively fuel-efficient cars like the Fusion hybrid and the new C-Max, Toyota is pushing forward with ambitious hybrid plans of its own.

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As the Associated Press and others have reported, Toyota has announced that it’ll roll out 21 new gas-electric hybrid cars like the Prius into the marketplace by 2015, including 14 all-new models. The Japanese automaker is also introducing a new all-electric vehicle this year and a fuel-cell-powered soon. But considering how much money and effort it’s putting into hybrids, Toyota is betting that, at least looking a few years into the future, drivers around the globe will be far more interested in cars like the Prius than they will be in pure electric plug-ins like the Nissan Leaf.

Automaker: Honda
Goal: Double sales in five years

Honda President Takanobu Ito recently told reporters that his company “has reached the stage of going on the offensive,” publicly announcing that plans on reaching at least 6 million sales annually by 2017. The automaker sold about 3.1 million vehicles for the 12-month period ending in March 2012.

Why go on record with such an aggressive sales target, which could make Honda look bad if it comes up short? “This is quite a big figure for us and there were debates over whether we should make it public, but unless we set a goal and work to figure out how we can achieve it, our business operations won’t be specific,” Ito said in a news conference, per Reuters.

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Ito declared that the small (but fairly spacious inside) fuel-efficient Fit, called the Jazz in some parts of the world, will be “definitely a core product in any region in the world” for Honda. The automaker plans on upping sales of the Fit and other vehicles from 2 million to 3 million annually in developed markets like Japan, North America, and Europe, and also double sales within five years in emerging markets such as China and India. To reach these goals, it is focusing on proven cars like the Fit, rather than attempting to woo new customers by create new models.

Automaker: Volkswagen
Goal: Become world leader in sales by 2018

You can’t say the German automaker lacks ambition. It has stated plans to reach 10 million sales annually by 2018, and to take over the crown usually held by Toyota for most sales worldwide.

How might Volkswagen reach its ambitious goals? Mainly, interestingly enough, with strategies that aren’t remotely bold, but instead amount to “playing it safe,” in the words of a Bloomberg story. In previous years, rather than focusing on new features and pricey redesigns, VW has made great efforts to decrease the price of the Passat and the Jetta. To keep costs under control in the future, VW plans on using the same parts and platforms for several small and compact vehicles, including the Polo and its best-ever seller, the Golf hatchback.

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All of these automakers’ goals are ambitious in different ways. But they share a few interesting things in common.

First, none of the three is putting all that much focus on pure electric plug-ins. Toyota is placing plenty of emphasis on hybrids, but it sure looks like the mainstream car of the future will probably still need to be filled up at the gas station from time to time. Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s vice chairman overseeing vehicle development, explained it best when telling reporters why his company decided against a major push for electric cars:

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” said Uchiyamada, who spearheaded Toyota’s development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990s.

Speaking of costs, they seem to matter more than ever to automakers. Instead of focusing on flashy, high-tech vehicles at the high-end of the market, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Honda are all banking on the mass success of small, unsexy vehicles whose main attributes consist of decent quality and a low price of ownership—thanks to good fuel economy and fairly cheap MSRPs.

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These attributes are sure to resonate with drivers facing rising gas prices and a struggling economy in the U.S., and, more importantly for automakers hoping to boost sales globally, with drivers around the world.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME

5 comments
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Raymond Chuang
Raymond Chuang

I do think that we may see both standard hatchback and longer wagon versions of the next-generation Honda Fit/Jazz coming in 2014 specifically for the North American market. And the new model will get Honda's "Earth Dreams Technology" Atkinson-cycle direct-injection 1.5-liter I-4 rated at around 122-125 bhp with a CVT automatic, plus a much-revised rear suspension that will dramatically improve ride quality without sacrificing the amazing interior space flexibility the Fit is well-known for.

Clarence Swinney
Clarence Swinney

 Are the people finally awakening to the damage done by corporations from shipping our jobs to low wage countries like China and India? It has hurt state budgets.

It has decimated our local apparel and textile 6000 jobs in 45,000 city.

In the last ten years 2001-2011 We lost 58,000 factories.

Each time a plant closes, it reduces revenue going to the city, state and causes deficits.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing states the U.S. Lost at least $254 Billion in manufacturing wages in the past decade due to the loss of 5.5 million manufacturing jobs. Ending China's currency manipulation would create more than 1 million jobs, Add to economic growth, And reduce the budget deficit by $500 billion over the next six years

Roto3
Roto3

 100% right.  Of course the executives that ordered outsourcing on a massive scale are still reaping the benefits of their kill in the form of record bonuses.  (Let's give them a tax break!)  Yes, hybrids are the best alternative choice for now because they recycle kinetic energy for the least cost.  Equal or better (economically) are best practice 4 cylinder internal combustion engines.  Bring the jobs back to America and may the best "American" factory win, be it Toyota, Honda, VW, GM, Ford, etc.

unknownstuff
unknownstuff

 It's all part of the capitalism game.  Back in the day I'm sure America stole jobs from England or Europe or something.  What goes around, comes around.

jesuguru
jesuguru

"England or Europe"

Last time I checked, England was still in Europe.