Thursday, July 12, 2007

Toyota Spa test notes 2007-07-12

Panasonic Toyota Racing today completed its week's testing with a solid day of running at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps. Following yesterday's rain-afflicted test at the same circuit, the track was again wet for the start of the day's action. There was no rain in the morning but the skies were grey and the tarmac took a long time to dry out.

The changing track surface made comparisons difficult but Jarno did some running to test tyres in different conditions. When the track dried out in the sun after lunch he successfully completed a programme that included set-up for the Belgian Grand Prix along with suspension, aerodynamics work and starts.

Toyota's next racing appointment is the European Grand Prix next week at the Nurburgring, the closest circuit to the team's Cologne factory.

Jarno Trulli:

"It's nice to come back here to Spa because it's the best track in the world. The organisers have done major work in the paddock and the results look good. The circuit has also been resurfaced and there have been changes to the Bus Stop which have improved the corner. The pit entry and the pit exit are a bit narrow but overall I like what has been done. Of course you never know what weather you'll get here and it's always difficult to test in conditions like we saw today."

"We went out for a few runs on the damp track in the morning but the racing line soon became inconsistent. It was dry in the corners but wet on the straights so that meant it was difficult to carry out much useful comparative work. The track was dry in the afternoon so we were able to run through our programme. We haven't concentrated on lap times but the car felt good. So it's been a positive day and I look forward to coming back for the race."

Pascal Vasselon, Senior General Manager Chassis:

"Spa is a unique track so the testing we have done this week has been focused firmly on the race here in September. The unsettled weather has been representative of the range of conditions that we could face during the race weekend itself. So we have been very careful to collect data in every single type of weather that we have seen in the last three days."

"We have also had a wide range of developments to test on the car from suspension to new aero parts. Overall everything has gone well and Jarno and Ralf felt comfortable and quick in the car so they should be well prepared for the Belgian Grand Prix."

Jarno Trulli
Chassis: TF107/03
Best lap time: 1m 48.491s
Total laps: 76
Total distance: 532.3km

South Africa: Locally Manufactured Toyota Corollas Head to Europe

As from next year, the South African subsidiary of motor company Toyota is expected to export its locally produced Toyota Corollas from Durban to Europe - a move set to boost the economy of KwaZulu-Natal.

The decision was taken following a meeting on Wednesday in Tokyo, Japan between the provincial government and Toyota representatives.

At the meeting with KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sbu Ndebele, the vice chairperson of Toyota Motor Corporation, Katsuhiro Nakagawa said Toyota South Africa would produce Corollas specifically to be exported to Europe.

Mr Nakagawa announced that about 50 engineers had already been sent to South Africa to help with the manufacturing of the vehicles.

"Toyota is determined to produce more vehicles in South Africa which can be exported to other countries.

"The exporting of vehicles from South Africa to other countries is very important for South Africa's economy. The automotive industry is also important for the development of South Africa," he said.

He said they also wanted an increased presence in Japanese automotive parts suppliers in South Africa as the country was considered to be the gateway to the rest of Africa.

"We want to make our South African plant more competitive compared to Toyota plants in other countries," he said.

In a bid to ensure the competitiveness of their South African plant, he acknowledged that the training of workers would be important to achieve this.

"If we skill more workers, more automotive parts supplier companies will come to South Africa".

He explained that they planned to establish a Toyota Training School in South Africa, which would benefit the company's employees and create a much needed skills base for growth.

"We want to listen to the voice of the workers to be able to produce more vehicles, more efficiently and effectively. Training, development and education of our workforce must be intensified," said Mr Nakagawa.

The production of the latest model of the Toyota Corolla in South Africa is currently proceeding well and will be launched in August this year.

"However, we are trying hard to introduce new models of Toyota to be produced is South Africa as well," he said.

Premier Ndebele appreciated the confidence shown by the company to South Africa, particularly KwaZulu-Natal.

"We appreciate the new investment of more than R4 billion at the plant at Prospecton in Durban. However, we would like to see Toyota producing other automotive components in KwaZulu-Natal as well," he said.

Mr Ndebele said they would welcome the development of an Automotive Supplier Park in the province.

He said it was important to accelerate training of the current and future workforce.

"Continuous training is very important. We have to train all the time. For the market in South Africa, the market in Africa and the market elsewhere, training is important," he said.

Toyota Needs Discounts for Tundra Goal, Press Says

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world's second-largest automaker, needs discounts on the Tundra truck to reach the goal of doubling its U.S. share for large pickups, the company's North American president said.

``Incentives for us are not strategic, they are tactical,'' Jim Press of Toyota Motor North America said in an interview in New York today. ``In the dealer-transaction price game, where the competitors really set the stage with their incentive activity, it drives us to the point where we recognize that incentives are part of this market.''

Toyota in June began discounts of as much as $3,500 on the 2007 Tundra, four months after the truck's release. The pickup's list prices range from $22,290 to $41,850. estimates the average Tundra incentive was $5,083 last month, more than on General Motors Corp. or Ford Motor Co. large pickups.

The revamped Tundra, built in San Antonio, is bigger and more powerful than its predecessor and for the first time puts Toyota in direct competition with Ford's F-Series and GM's Chevrolet Silverado trucks. Tundra U.S. sales rose 44 percent to 82,840 in this year's first half, as the industrywide total for large pickups fell 3.1 percent.

The size of incentives on the Tundra is unusual for any new Toyota product, said John Casesa, managing partner of Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC in New York.

`Fighting Back Ferociously'

``To some extent they are really struggling with Tundra, and domestic companies are fighting back ferociously,'' Casesa said.

The average Tundra transaction price, or what customers actually pay including incentives, was $33,605 in June, according to The average was $29,657 for Ford's F-150s and $29,151 for GM's Silverado 1500s, the Santa Monica, California- based company said.

Gasoline prices that have stayed near $3 a gallon this year have slowed sales of the trucks, yet consumer demand for pickups won't fade in the long term, Press said.

``Fuel prices will not substantially change the dynamics and the size of the market, but they will require product attributes that respond more to the environment of higher gas prices or greenhouse-gas concerns or environmental needs,'' he said.

Toyota is selling ``about double the volume of the last- generation Tundra in terms of where we were last year, in a segment that's down,'' Press said. ``We're right on our target.''

The company needs to offer a competitive large truck to keep its U.S. buyers from shifting to other automakers, he said. ``Long term, it's a segment we really need to be in to continue to grow with our customers as they come into our product line.''

GM is the world's largest automaker by annual sales volume. Toyota beat GM by that measure in this year's first quarter.

The Toyota City, Japan-based company's American depositary receipts fell $1.22 to $125.71 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have declined 6.4 percent this year

Toyota Claims All Cars Will Be Hybrids

Jim Press, the President of Toyota North America, came out with a very bold statement recently, saying that "eventually, everything will be a hybrid." What's more, he's so confident in Toyota's ability and so proud of their product line that he's comparing the "ground-breaking" Toyota Prius hybrid with the Ford Model T.

As I'm sure you already know, the Ford Model T is often lauded as the first of its kind, a car that became widely available to the masses. It was revolutionary for its time and it has shaped the automotive industry into what it is today. Toyota, or rather, Jim Press is saying that the Prius is equally revolutionary.

Although I agree that we will be seeing more hybrids in the coming years, I don't believe that everything will be a hybrid. Personally, I think that our reliance on fossil fuels will have to dry up at some point, forcing us to drive cars that don't need any sort of conventional gasoline whatsoever.

Toyota stuns Saatchi with ad business switch to CHI

Toyota has dealt Saatchi & Saatchi a hammerblow by moving the lion's share of its £50m UK advertising business into CHI & Partners.

The Japanese car marque is Saatchi's second-biggest global account behind Procter & Gamble, spending $2.5bn (£1.75bn) a year, and the UK is its biggest single European market.

It is thought that CHI, which sold a 49.9% stake in the agency to WPP earlier this year (MW April 19), will be handed the majority of the UK business in the coming weeks after a pitch against incumbent Saatchi London.

CHI has been making inroads into the Toyota account since 2004, when it was appointed to handle the launch of the Aygo model across Europe. The agency has since won pan-European briefs for the Corolla and the Yaris and handles Toyota's luxury brand Lexus across Europe. However, the only UK-specific project it had won until now was Toyota¹s tactical advertising business at the start of last year.

The news comes as Saatchi struggles to find a UK chief executive to replace Lee Daley, who left to join Manchester United as commercial director in March. Sources claim Saatchi's EMEA, Asia and Latin America chief executive Jim O'Mahony, who has been leading the search for Daley¹s replacement, could now be handed responsibility for the UK agency on top of his other duties.

Toyota's decision to move the majority of the UK account out of Saatchi follows several changes to the company's senior team in the last year.

Its former European marketing director Jon Williams moved to Toyota GB as commercial director earlier this year (MW January 18) to replace Paul Philpott, who left to join Kia UK as managing director. Toyota GB's long-serving managing director Graham Smith left to take a new role with Toyota Europe last year (MW May 11, 2006).

A source close to WPP says that the company's chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has been tracking the Toyota business for a number of years and that CHI¹s presence on its roster was a primary reason he bought the stake in the agency.

However, industry experts suggest that the Toyota news will not sit well with the Japanese marque's rival Ford, one of WPP's biggest clients.

Publicis-owned ZenithOptimedia handles Toyota's media planning and buying.

It is not clear if the CHI appointment will affect that relationship.

CHI founding partner Johnny Hornby denies the agency has won the UK account and plays down suggestions it will take a more prominent role in Europe and possibly in the US. He says: "As we understand it, it's business as usual in the UK and we haven't won the business in Europe or America, as much as we¹d love to one day." Toyota GB marketing director Mark Hall adds: "As of today, we are still working with both Saatchi & Saatchi and CHI. For the next few months, there will not be any tangible change. Beyond that, we'll see." Saatchi was unavailable for comment as Marketing Week went to press.

Toyota keeps on truckin'

Toyota has been struggling during its first season on NASCAR's Nextel Cup circuit and Busch Series, but it has been dominant during its time in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, which heads to Kentucky Speedway Saturday for the Built Ford Tough 225.

When Toyota joined the Truck Series in 2004, it posted four victories. In 2005, it won nine times and finished second in the manufacturers' standings behind Chevrolet. Last year, it won a series-best 12 of 25 events and captured its first championship with driver Todd Bodine. This season, Toyota is leading the series and manufacturers' standings with six wins in 12 races.

But that success hasn't translated to Kentucky Speedway, where Toyota is 0-for-3. Chevrolet is the track leader among truckmakers with three wins, including the past two, and Dodge and Ford have won twice. How Toyota is faring on the truck series and the two stock-car series: