TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp., which bought a majority 51 percent stake in Daihatsu Motor Co. in September, already is exerting visible control over its subsidiary.
Toyota has tapped into Daihatsu's small-car expertise while limiting the unit's operations in vehicles with engines larger than 1.0 liter.
Take the Storia. The 1.0-liter wagon is Daihatsu's best-selling vehicle outside the 660cc-class minivehicle segment. Daihatsu sold 1,368 in September, equal to 43 percent of the company's non-minivehicle sales.
But Toyota dealers coveted the Storia because they had nothing equivalent. So, as of Sept. 24, Toyota dealers got a Storia rebadged as the Duet.
In the final week of the month, they sold 794, almost half the Storia's tally. Toyota aims to sell 3,000 Duets each month. Daihatsu dealers are unhappy but have little say in the matter.
Moreover, Daihatsu may discontinue its Charade and Applause models, according to Daihatsu President Iichi Shingu.
There are good reasons for dropping them: Both are aging models last renewed in 1989; their sales are sagging; and it will be costly to meet new rules.
But the main reason may be that the two models, with engines between 1.3 and 1.6 liters, are too close to the Toyota Corolla in size.