As far as the industry is concerned, Toyota President Fujio Cho has become a global trendsetter.
It's hard to find anything that hasn't gone right for Toyota Motor Corp. in the past 12 months. That is a key reason for Cho, 67, being the Automotive News Industry Leader of the Year.
This is the second time Cho has been named an Automotive News All-Star. He was honored in the manufacturing category in 1993, when he was president of Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. Inc.
Cho is expected to step down from the Toyota presidency next June. When he does, his successor will inherit a juggernaut.
Toyota enjoys fat profits even as it invests heavily in new plants, new models and new markets. The automaker posted a net profit of $11 billion for the 2004 fiscal year, a 55 percent increase from fiscal 2003.
The company continues to grow. Toyota is eclipsing Ford Motor Co. as the world's second-largest automaker. And if Toyota reaches its global market share target of 15 percent, it could overtake General Motors.
Toyota - traditionally a conservative company - has become a trendsetter. Consider its initiatives in North America:
One of the most telling indicators of Toyota's success is its lack of excess production capacity. At a time when the global industry suffers from chronic overcapacity, Toyota is running its assembly plants flat-out.
That's why Toyota is so profitable. And that's why Fujio Cho is Automotive News' Industry Leader of the Year.