Toyoda names the non-Toyotas he likes best

Toyota President Akio Toyoda, pictured in October, is hard pressed to single out individual cars as his favorites -- be they his company’s or not.

TOKYO -- In a rare outburst of convivial kudos, car buff and Toyota President Akio Toyoda has publicly aired his short list of the top cars made by his domestic rivals.

Getting highest honors from the Toyota chief: the Nissan Skyline, Honda NSX, Mazda Cosmo Sport, Mitsubishi Pajero and Isuzu Bellett.

Toyoda said he cited those nameplates as especially “memorable cars” during a meeting with top executives from other manufacturers.

He recounted the commendation during his inauguration today as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the industry’s top lobbying group.

The ever-diplomatic Toyoda usually is hard pressed to single out individual cars as his favorites -- be they his company’s or not. But this time he cited a nameplate from each of the four companies that sent their own CEOs to the board as vice chairmen.

The list says something about Toyoda’s taste in wheels.

The Skyline, as it is known in Japan, is sold today as the Infiniti G in the United States, but the name dates back to the 1950s in its home market.

The NSX is the aluminum-bodied high-performance sports car Honda discontinued before announcing in January it would be revived and built in the United States.

The Cosmo Sport was the roadster bearing Mazda’s first rotary engine in the 1960s.

The long-running Pajero line of SUVs solidified Mitsubishi’s off-road reputation.

And last but not least, the Bellett was a popular subcompact car from the 1960s and 70s that was the first Japanese car to get a GT label.

Japan's automakers take turns sending executives to head up the auto organization, and Toyoda follows Nissan COO Toshiyuki Shiga, who had held the post since 2010.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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