December 29, 2004 in Business

Toyota may bump DaimlerChrysler from Big Three

John Porretto Associated Press
File/Associated Press photo

New Toyota cars await shipping to their final United States destinations at Toyota Logistics parking last year in Long Beach, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

DETROIT – Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. is on pace to unseat DaimlerChrysler AG as the third-leading U.S. seller of cars and trucks by the end of the decade, though not by much, a forecasting firm says.

CSM Worldwide said Tuesday its long-range forecast has Toyota, including the Lexus and Scion brands, accounting for 14.1 percent of the U.S. market by 2009, slightly ahead of DaimlerChrysler’s 14 percent.

The DaimlerChrysler tally includes domestic brands Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep as well as Mercedes-Benz, said Joe Barker, CSM’s manager of North American sales analysis.

“Robust growth from Toyota will stem from an unrelenting product offensive, an intensified effort in the luxury market, incremental volume from Scion and strong brand equity,” Barker said.

Such growth would be nothing new for Japan’s No. 1 automaker, whose U.S. sales rose 6.3 percent last year and were up 9.3 percent for the first 11 months of 2004.

At the same time, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the nation’s two-largest carmakers, have lost business to foreign brands despite spending far more on consumer incentives in hopes of lifting sales.

By 2009, CSM predicts GM to account for 25 percent of the U.S. market, followed by Ford at 19.2 percent — both still well ahead of Toyota and DaimlerChrysler.

Through November, GM’s total U.S. market share was 27.5 percent, Ford had 19.7 percent, DaimlerChrysler 14.3 percent and Toyota 12.2 percent, according the research firm Autodata Corp.

Many forecasters also predict significant U.S. growth for South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia in the coming years as they capitalize on much-improved quality and ever-growing product portfolios.

CSM forecasts Toyota brand sales will climb 23 percent by 2009 as its models nudge further upmarket and the company expands body-style and powertrain options. Toyota also hopes to lure truck buyers with a more expansive lineup of sport utility vehicles and pickups, CSM said.

Chrysler spokesman Mike Aberlich said the company’s ranking among U.S. sellers was “not really on our radar screen.”

“You’re always trying to protect your turf, but certainly the focus for us is profitable growth,” he said.

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