I bet Toyota can’t wait for 2010 to end. It started with the ongoing unintended acceleration meltdown that saw over 12 million Toyotas recalled, a crisis that brought back down to Earth the Japanese automaker’s perceived superior reliability and quality image.
That was followed up by the company’s launch of its so-called "youth" Scion brand in Canada (eight years late) to the sound of one hand clapping. Then, it had to outsource to California's tiny Tesla Motors to get a ride on the EV bandwagon. And now the automaker has to live with sales that have been hit so hard around the world, its Toyota/Lexus brands now sell less cars than Hyundai-Kia Motors not only in Canada, but in Europe as well.
So, to finish off its annus horribilis, you would think Toyota’s braintrust would be going out of its way to spin some good news. But instead, in an interview with U.S. AutoWeek, Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president in charge of research and development, pretty much admitted that Toyota is far behind the competition with its gas-only offerings.
Uchiyamada said Toyota wants to increase the fleet's fuel efficiency by—wait for it—putting turbochargers and direct fuel injection in smaller vehicles.
I know. Wow. I hope you were sitting down.
"In the next five years, the general trend is downsizing of engines and the use of turbochargers," Uchiyamada said in an interview. "Another development will be direct fuel injection."
“Next five years?” Ground breaking—not. When Toyota brags it spends "more than $1 million every hour of every day" on research and development, you have to ask, "On what?"
This new plan would put Toyota years behind mainstream rivals that currently offer—for sale, right now—downsized, direct-injection/turbo mills like, oh, Ford, GM, Fiat, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, VW—er, the whole industry.
So now, not only are Toyotas dull to look at, duller to drive, and not as reliable as you thought, know that the company has been distracted enough to fall behind on the technology front too.
But hey, no worries, Toyota fans. In the years it will take for the company to get caught up, I’m sure its hybrid sales will more than make up for the shortfall.