Yoshimi Inaba demonstrates how much importance Toyota Motor Corp. places on China. He is the executive vice president in charge of all operations in China, reporting directly to Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe. Previously, Toyota had a single executive vice president in charge of all overseas markets. Now, Toyota has two: Inaba for China, and Tokuichi Uranishi for all other markets outside Japan.
Inaba spoke with Automotive News Asia Editor James B. Treece at Toyota's Tokyo offices.
What are your forecasts for China's near-term growth?
It's always very difficult to predict. But since the early part of last year, I'm very pleased to see a healthy growth of around 10 percent or so. It looks like this is continuing. The January figure showed a big increase, but last year's January was very unusual.
There's been a lot of speculation for China in 2010, between 7.5 million and 10 million. That's a wide range. I think it's on course to exceed 10 million sometime beyond 2010.
Are you worried about a post-Olympic slowdown in the market?
No. It seems to me the aspiration for car ownership is very, very strong.
How do you protect your intellectual property in China?
Suing here and there is going to be very difficult. Our stance is just to wait for the whole system to start working. So we're not rushing to sue. What we have to make sure of is that we always stay ahead of the game. Once a product is in the market, whole copies or partial copies are always there. This you cannot avoid. But we are carefully watching it.
Is Toyota on track to achieve its stated goal of holding 10 percent of the Chinese market by 2010?
That 10 percent, or 1 million in 2010, has been set as a vision.
My feeling is that 10 percent is not actually 10 percent, because you have to forget about the 45 percent of the market which is commercial vehicles. So in other words, if you take that away, 10 percent of the total market is actually 20 percent (for just passenger vehicles).
Wherever we go, we like to achieve about 10 percent of the market.
I think sooner or later, I'm going to have to make a concrete plan, not a vision, for 2010.
You may e-mail James B. Treece at [email protected]