It's customary for businesses to sum up at the end of the year and to look ahead at the coming 12 months.
The keynote speaker at the annual Washington, D.C. auto show - Don Esmond, the number two man with the North American arm of Toyota - indulged in the practice Monday.
Mr. Esmond spoke to the media at the end of what has been a very good year for his company in the United States. "I'm proud to report that Toyota is on track to post another record year," he said. "That'll be our ninth consecutive record year. Combined sales with Toyota, [and associated brands] Scion and Lexus, for the first time ever, will be over two million units."
Toyota's success comes in the context of a good sales year overall in the U.S. market. "Sales are anticipated to close the year at about 16.9 million units. So that'll be up about a 100,000 from 2003," continued Don Esmond. "And that's not bad, considering that the year was filled with headlines about war, budget deficits, hurricanes, corporate scandals and soaring energy prices."
Don Esmond foresees more of the same for 2005, but suggests the business will be even tougher than it is now. "We expect the automotive industry to remain hyper-competitive next year," he said. "There's a record 52 new or redesigned products that are going to hit the market next year. As a result, we expect [customer] incentives to continue at a high clip [fast pace] as automakers scramble for market share in an attempt to keep their factories operating at near-capacity."
So why does Mr. Esmond continue to be optimistic for both 2005 and beyond? He offered some numbers as an explanation. "The U.S. growth rate - that's our birth rate [plus] immigration - will be five times that of China on a percentage basis for the next 50 years," he said. "That means that our nation will be adding one new person every 12 seconds, and most of those are going to become drivers."
And guess which automaker intends to attract a very large percentage of those new drivers as customers. You're absolutely right - Toyota. Expand that U.S. strategy worldwide and you quickly understand why Don Esmond maintains an optimistic attitude.