Toyota Outlook: Strength Through Hybrids -- And Electric

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

See, even mighty Toyota Motor is shifting into a slower gear.

This morning in Tokyo, the company gave its business outlook for 2009 and beyond. It was mixed -- which is not surprising given the economy.

Among the highlights.

- ' 09 global sales target lowered by 700,000 vehicles.

- ' 09 global sales will be up 2% compared to ' 08

- Weak U.S. market and high gasoline prices weighing on sales.

Those numbers and Toyota's downshift explains why CEO Katsuaki Watanabe is pushing his company to move faster with the next generation of hybrid and electric cars. Among the moves:

- a plug-in hybrid originally scheduled to hit showrooms in 2010 will be there by end of ' 09.

- next-generation electric vehicle vehicle by early next decade.

So what do I take from all of this?

It's typical Toyota. Adjusting sales to the slowing U.S. market and changing it's Mississippi plant to build Prius hybrids, instead of trucks and SUVs, is prudent.

The promise of a plug-in hybrid by late '09 and an electric vehicle by early next decade shows Toyota is leveraging its strength in alternative-powered vehicles. That's a smart move: There's a race to come up with the electric car that will be "Prius of the future." General Motors intends to get there first with the Volt. Nissan/Renault also has a model in the works. So Toyota is making it clear: it won't be left behind in the electric-car race.

Left behind?

- Ford Motor

- Honda Motor

- Chrysler (privately owned)


Questions? Comments?