America loves a winner. But when that victor is a supposedly "foreign" automaker steadily devouring U.S. market share, the story might be more complicated. Two motor-vehicle experts joined "Street Signs" to examine Toyota Motor's role in the Midwest.
Steven Adler, CEO of Charity Brands Marketing, said that in America's geographic heartland, "consumers are concerned and patriotic" -- which could spell rising economic nationalism. The CEO told CNBC's Erin Burnett that in order to win Midwestern hearts and minds, Japan-based Toyota would need to marry itself to star-spangled issues, such as "veterans' causes" and Congressional Medal of Honor" presentations. He also questioned whether traditionally non-urban racing enthusiasts "especially NASCAR fans" would embrace "or even care about" Toyota's green initatives.
Automotive News editor David Sedgwick agreed, although he maintained that economic moves -- read, job creation -- would be more important than "patriotic" symbolism. The editor noted that while total 2006 sales showed a sizeable share gap between leader General Motors and Toyota -- 22.2% versus 16.1% -- "we take retail sales as the best measure" of growth. And in retail sales, Toyota trailed a mere 2%. Sedgwick said that in each of its markets, the car company locally manufactures some two-thirds of the cars sold in that market; but in the U.S., the number of units manufactured is more like 50%. So look for more U.S. plants to sprout up like the one Toyota built in Tupelo, Miss.