Toyota is already the world's third-largest automaker with an estimated 10.2 percent share of the global auto market.
It is the industry leader in manufacturing efficiency and quality. It has the industry's biggest stock of cash, estimated at more than $20 billion (E22.7 billion). And it is the industry's most geographically balanced, with North America, Japan, Europe and other markets each representing one-third of sales.
But all that's not enough for Toyota President Fujio Cho.
Speaking to Toyota senior managers earlier this month, Cho unveiled an ambitious global vision for 2010. If achieved, it could make the Toyota group the world's biggest automaker with a 15 percent share of the global market.
Toyota would take the No. 1 position if current leader General Motors fails to expand beyond the 14.8 percent share it held last year - and does not take control of Fiat Auto. (The figure does not include companies in which GM holds a minor stake, including Fiat Auto, Suzuki, Subaru and Isuzu.) Ford is No. 2, with an estimated 12.4 percent stake not including Mazda, down from 12.7 percent in 2000.
'It's a very powerful statement of [Toyota's] intention in the industry,' said Graeme Maxton, director of AutoPolis, an automotive and economic forecasting firm in London.
But in an interview at company headquarters here, Akio Matsubara, Toyota managing director of corporate planning, downplayed suggestions that Toyota's goal is to become No. 1 in the world.
'The figure of 15 percent is a vision, not a target,' Matsubara said. 'Now that we've achieved 10 percent, we want to bring 15 percent into view as our next dream. We don't see any significance in becoming No. 1.'
The point of the 15 percent figure, he said, is to motivate Toyota employees to embrace changes to improve so they would not become complacent.
'Even if we don't achieve it, if we hold that as a dream, it will drive' changes inside Toyota, he said. 'The purpose is to discuss within Toyota what the future car society will be like and what Toyota should do.'
The '2010 Global Vision' discusses how Toyota should embrace environmental issues and developments in information technology; how its management structure will have to decentralize authority; and how Toyota should consider new technologies and new business fields, through mergers and acquisitions if necessary.
Still, Matsubara called the 15 percent figure 'a sort of banner.' He also didn't rule out the possibility of using mergers and acquisitions to boost Toyota's sales total. But he said that 'probably' would not happen.
The most likely merger and acquisition activity, he said, would be something similar to Toyota's recent 50-50 joint venture with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen to build an entry-level small car in the Czech Republic.
Morgan Stanley Japan auto analyst Noriaki Hirakata agreed that Cho's vision is partly a motivational tool. Toyota executives, he said, believe Toyota is 'the best in the world, but they don't want to be satisfied.'
It's as if Cho's motto has become 'Beat Toyota,' Hirakata said.
Capturing 15 percent of the world market in a decade won't be easy, analysts said. Toyota's performance in Europe is critical.
AutoPolis' Maxton projected that global sales including commercial trucks will rise to 60.9 million units in 2010. If so, Toyota would need to sell 9.13 million vehicles to reach 15 percent.
That's about 3 million more than in 2001 - a 60 percent increase. China, India and other developing markets won't grow enough by then to generate that much more volume. That leaves the developed markets.
'If they're going to take 15 percent, they are going to have to be much bigger in the USA. But they won't talk about that for political reasons,' said Stephen Usher, senior analyst at J.P. Morgan Securities Asia in Tokyo.
Matsubara declined to discuss Toyota's plans for specific markets, except to say Toyota wants to sell more vehicles in the USA, Japan and especially Europe.
Maxton estimates Toyota must boost its share in Europe to 10 percent - from 4 percent now - to capture a 15 percent global share.
'You can certainly see them becoming No. 3 in the USA, remaining No. 1 in Japan and remaining No. 1 in Southeast Asia,' Maxton said. 'The big question is going to be Europe.'