TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., in danger of losing its title as the world's biggest automaker this year, says it has sworn off the pursuit of being No. 1.
Executive Vice President Satoshi Ozawa said last week that quality and customer satisfaction are more imporant than volume. "There is no meaning in us being the global No. 1," he said.
Toyota never said it wanted to be No. 1, only that it wanted 15 percent of the global market -- which would all but guarantee the top spot. But soon after it passed General Motors in 2007, quality problems surfaced that later were blamed in part on rapid growth.
Toyota now predicts global sales will drop 1 percent to 7.24 million in the current fiscal year.
Said Ozawa: "I believe we will never have a target to be No. 1."
Toyota down to No. 3
With a volume of 8.42 million vehicles, Toyota finished 2010 ahead of General Motors (7.56 million) and VW Group (7.14 million), according to the Automotive News Data Center.
That order of finish is likely to change dramatically, according to analysts.
"We're looking at a three-horse race with Toyota, because of the earthquake, likely to fall to No. 3 from No. 1," said Jeff Schuster, J.D. Power & Associates executive director of automotive forecasting. "In the wake of what has happened, it will be extremely difficult for Toyota to retain the global sales title."
Schuster sees GM finishing 2011 as No. 1 in global sales and VW at No. 2, which would be a first for the German company.
Consultancy IHS Automotive, which includes sales from the SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. venture in China that are not factored into the AN Data Center results, says GM passed Toyota in global sales last year and expects the U.S. automaker to finish No. 1 again in 2011, ahead of new No. 2 VW and Toyota ranked third.
"Toyota will get hit quite hard this year, but is forecast to recover," said Henner Lehne, IHS Automotive director of global light vehicle sales forecasts.
IHS Automotive data shows that Toyota will pass VW to finish 2012 at No. 2 in global vehicle sales. (See box, below)
Douglas A. Bolduc contributed