The Motley Fool’s readers have spoken, and I have heeded their cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I’ve decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first, and are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here’s my previous selection.
This week, I’m going to steer us back into the automobile sector and highlight the leadership of Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM).
Source: Michael Sheehan, Flickr.
Hit the brakes
There are certainly a few of you that won’t agree with my praise of Akio Toyoda and some of your pessimism is justified. Over the past year Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) has struggled in the United States where it’s allowed Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) to snag market share and lost the top-selling car title for its Camry, which it’s consistently held for about a decade, to Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC)‘s Altima and Accord briefly back in March and April.
Overseas in China, both it and Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) have had difficulty finding footing against fresher American designs from Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM). It also doesn’t help that relations between China and Japan continue to be touch-and-go which has hampered sales in the world’s largest auto market.
Finally, the tragic earthquake in Japan in March 2011 crippled much of the Japanese auto industry, allowing U.S. automakers to shine and regain lots of previously lost market share both in the U.S. and overseas.
In spite of these setbacks, Akio Toyoda has led his company through a difficult period and is slowly setting Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) up for another round of big profits.
For Toyota it all begins with bringing new and innovative cars to the consumer. Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM), like GM, had gone a while without introducing major redesigns on some of its core vehicles. That all changed when the 2014 Tundra and 2014 Corolla got a facelift that’s resulted in significantly better sales in the U.S. for both vehicles.
Source: IFCAR, commons.wikimedia.org.
Another point to remember is that Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM)’s Prius was the true first electric-hybrid to make it to market; and while it may be seeing a slight slowdown now in the U.S., presumably because of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its all-electric Model S, the likelihood of an extended sales slowdown seems small. The reasoning being that the Model S’ price point ($60,000) and the fact that plug-in infrastructure doesn’t exist for a number of people, combined with its high production costs, leaves the Prius as one of, if not the, most eco-friendly “green” cars on the planet. That’s a title that Toyota has been taking to the bank for more than a decade and it should sustain sales for many years to come.
Taking a chapter out of its peers in Detroit, Toyoda has managed to trim the fat, so to speak, at his company, delivering approximately $4.5 billion more in profits in fiscal 2013 than it did in fiscal 2012 solely because of cost-cutting . Overall, including a much weaker Yen which helped its vehicles sell better overseas, Toyota reported a 160% increase in profits in 2013 and forecast a 42% rise in profits this fiscal year.