Cleantech Market Intelligence
As Toyota Stumbles, Ford Has the Momentum
Recently, my colleague, John Gartner, wrote a piece about why we see Ford Motor Company moving in the right direction for leadership in plug-in vehicles (PEV). But the question that comes to mind is why, if we expect the Toyota Prius PHEV to be a leading plug-in vehicle, are we saying that Ford has the possibility to lead? John’s piece summarized the product plans and how we see movements in that market, but there’s another part to it: The overall brand performance in the market.
The recession of 2008 – 2009 hit GM hardest of the automakers, though they maintained their leadership position (thanks largely to fleet sales). While GM has lead in U.S. sales, Toyota surpassed Ford in 2009 to take the number two spot only to give that back to Ford in 2010. The details of the last year’s sales show some very interesting trends and points to one of the reasons for optimism about Ford.
Overall 2010 car sales were up 1% in 2010 and truck sales are up 22%. Interestingly, the gains in truck sales almost make up for the truck losses in 2009, while cars remain down from their 2008 level (car sales declined 19% in 2009). However, Ford has beat this trend. Ford car sales are up 13% (thanks in large part to a new Fiesta and Taurus and continued Fusion sales strength), while Toyota’s car sales are down 9% and GM’s sales car sales are down 7%.
Consumers Reports found during the height of the recalls last winter that Toyota owner loyalty was falling, though come December, JD Power found that Toyota loyalty hadn’t fallen so much as been surpassed by Ford and Honda. The combination of flagging sales and new leaders in owner loyalty point to the damage that the 2010 quality recalls had on Toyota’s brand. Meanwhile, the competition is coming on strong.
GM and Nissan have a lead on the PEV market, and GM is looking particularly strong. Chevrolet, Ford, and Honda have new entries in the small car segment, with PEVs from the latter two on the way. Chrysler has revamped its entire lineup in an effort to remain competitive. And Hyundai’s new Sonata is stealing share from Toyota’s biggest sales vehicle, the Camry. All of this spells trouble for Toyota, who is increasingly reliant on trucks and the Lexus and Prius brands to keep Toyota strong in the United States.
This is not a eulogy for Toyota though, rather a cautionary tale. I don’t think this is the beginning of the end for Toyota. Prius is still the best selling hybrid in the United States (and world) by a wide margin. As they expand the Prius lineup, the products look like good fits for the market. The Toyota truck lineup continues to grow and (assuming it comes out on time) will be the first truck in the PEV market. And it appears that the quality issues may finally be behind them. Granted, the damage is done, but recovery and reputation rebuilding are underway.
The momentum is certainly headed in the right direction for the Blue Oval, but to capitalize on Toyota’s stumbles and take the PEV reigns, a flawless Ford Focus and C-Max launch are pivotal to ensure PEV versions can follow.