TOKYO -- After edging past Ford to become the world's second-largest carmaker last year, Toyota is methodically preparing to challenge GM for the No. 1 position.
Toyota's "Global 15" goal of capturing 15 percent of the world market some time after 2010 does not target GM specifically. But GM's global market share in 2002 was 14.7 percent.
Toyota once portrayed Global 15 as a nearly impossible challenge designed to rally employees. But now it is seen increasingly as a concrete target with a specific time frame. Toyota President Fujio Cho said: "Our aim is to reach 15 percent in the decade of the 2010s."
Analysts say it could come earlier rather than later. The trend lines are clear: GM's global share has fluctuated in recent years, but the Toyota juggernaut has continued to push ahead -- as Ford knows.
Between 1998 and 2002, GM's global sales rose 4.4 percent to 8.50 million, thanks to a sharp rise in 1999 that then eroded over each of the following three years. Conversely, Toyota's global sales during that period rose 16.8 percent to 6.17 million units, or at nearly four times GM's pace.
Of course, trends are not irreversible. Companies that are strong one decade can go into reverse the next. Ford outperformed GM through much of the 1990s, only to stall.
Toyota estimates that its 2003 retail sales including affiliates Daihatsu and heavy truck specialist Hino topped Ford's, 6.783 million to 6.720 million, or by about 60,000 units.
Accounting regulations say Ford can't count sales by Mazda Motor Corp. because Ford owns 33.4 percent of Mazda rather than a majority. But those rules are not as cut and dried when it comes to joint ventures.
But in the unlikely event that Toyota does not consolidate into its total the 300,000 Toyota-badged vehicles from its joint venture with GM in California, it would not pass Ford.
The outlines of Toyota's Global 15 strategy have been clear for years. They include: