Toyota to become #1 in U.S.

Posted: June 22, 2009 in News, Toyota

The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler are changing the landscape of the auto industry. The two U.S. companies are shuttering plants, shedding dealers and reducing their product lines.

As a result, Toyota Motors will become the largest seller of light vehicles in the U.S. It has held the top spot globally since last year.The Japanese auto maker won’t be the only beneficiary of the two companies’ woes. But in terms of status, market clout and bragging rights, Toyota will be the No. 1 winner.

Its share of the North American light-truck and car market probably will rise to around 20% from 18.4%. GM will end up in second place with 13% to 16% — with Ford hot on its tail.

Although Toyota stock doesn’t change hands directly in the U.S., the company’s American depositary shares (TM), which represent them, are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

And, at a recent price of around $76 — about $30 below their 52-week high — they’re a good bet for long-term investors.

Despite its long-term happy outlook, Toyota will have to absorb some short-term pain.

Its U.S. sales are down 39% so far this year through May. In the first three calendar months of 2009, it lost $7.74 billion, eclipsing GM’s $6 billion shortfall in the same period.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, the loss was $4.4 billion — Toyota’s first annual deficit in 59 years. The company projects a loss of $5.5 billion for its current fiscal year.

Toyota has embarked on sweeping management changes, appointing as CEO Akio Toyoda, the 52-year-old grandson of the company’s founder. He faces problems.

Toyota is a laggard in China, one of the few markets where auto sales are strong. In the U.S., the company has been hurt by overcapacity as a result of a building spree, including an ill-considered $1.3 billion truck plant in Texas.

Nonetheless, Toyota is ramping up production of some models, even as it faces new competition from Honda’s hybrid Insight, several models from Hyundai and Kia, plus a potentially revitalized GM.

At the end of this bumpy road, Toyota should be the top winner in the global auto sweepstakes. The company could see its ADRs rising over the next year.

Bulls say they could hit $115 — a hardly demanding target considering they reached $137 about two years ago.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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