Toyota Motor president Akio Toyoda vowed to become the champion of sales among foreign automakers in Korea by 2014, promising tough competition with German players.
During his visit to Seoul over the weekend, Toyoda said, “Though we may not able to restore our brand image all at once, we will make efforts to top the list of Korea’s import car market within three years.”
The CEO’s commitment came during his meeting with local dealers for Toyota and Lexus vehicles in Seoul. His visit was apparently designed to placate and encourage dealerships, according to Toyota executives.
Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda attends a meeting with a group of reporters at the company’s Seoul head office Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap News)
He expressed strong resolute to overcome the carmaker’s image, undermined from the historic recall incident, and normalize its production capacity, hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March, as soon as possible.
Six or seven years ago, Lexus ― a premium auto brand under the wing of Toyota Motor ― closely vied for the No. 1 place in local sales with BMW.
But Lexus slid to eighth in 2010 sales ranking for imported vehicles after posting fifth in 2009, while German carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Audi made up the top four.
Toyota, which has been striving to attract Korean customers with lower-priced vehicles compared to Lexus, stayed at fifth in 2010.
Furthermore, in the wake of the earthquake, Lexus and Toyota saw their sales in Korea plunge 51 and 41 percent in April from a year before.
His “first” visit to Korea since taking office in 2009 also drew interest amid the situation under which Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors are expanding their presence in global markets.
In the U.S. market, the sales gap between Toyota and Hyundai-Kia has continued to narrow.
Toyota ranked fourth in the U.S. with sales of 108,387 vehicles in May while Hyundai-Kia saw their sales come to 107,426.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com