Auto industry turns upside down
This 2010 could turn out to be a strange year indeed. First a Republican wins a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Then Toyota stumbles while GM and Ford soar.
The latest auto sales figures show Toyota sales down 16 percent in January over the same month a year ago as the Japanese automaker was forced to recall millions of vehicles for defects.
Meanwhile, GM sales rose 14 percent and Ford posted an impressive 25 percent gain. True, these numbers were being compared with a truly dismal January last year, but considering that GM at least had a highly questionable future a year ago, it's a number the company can be proud of.
Not all imported brands lagged. Nissan sales rose 16 percent and Hyundai 24 percent, but Honda slipped 5 percent. Chrysler, still hanging in there as the No. 3 domestic producer, posted a decline of 8 percent as sales of its Dodge Rams fell.
The most fascinating question is how much damage Toyota has done to its reputation for quality with its gas pedal defect and its allegedly sluggish response to alerts from the U.S. government. The company has a loyal customer bases, but this has to be causing some strain.
I've been a bit skeptical about Toyota's reputation since a bad experience with a Toyota Camry back in the 1980s and 1990s. By comparison, the GM and Ford cars I've driven have been reliable, and my current Hyundai has had a stellar record (knock on wood).
So is anybody out there weeping for Toyota? Besides the dealers, of course.