When you're No. 1, you expect competitors to come gunning for you. It's true in most endeavors, including sports, business and especially the auto industry.
For decades, General Motors was numero uno, the biggest automaker in the world. It was unthinkable that any other company would overtake GM.
But that could change this year or next if Toyota continues to grow and can overcome the nagging quality problems that have started to tarnish the company's image.
In the luxury market, BMW is the global big dog, though Toyota's Lexus brand has made steady progress since it was introduced 17 years ago at the Detroit auto show.
Back then, German executives laughed out loud if you suggested that Lexus could ever compete with Mercedes-Benz or BMW. But Lexus has done well in America, where it now outsells every German brand. Some of its cars are premium models, not true luxury vehicles, but that doesn't diminish what the brand has achieved.
Last August, Lexus was launched in Japan and rang up about 10,300 sales by year end, compared with about 45,000 for BMW.
According to our sister publication Automobilwoche, outgoing BMW CEO Helmut Panke expects Lexus to make a serious run at his company by building a factory in Germany within the next three years. That's something Norbert Reithofer will need to watch after he succeeds Panke on Sept. 1.
Toyota says it has no immediate plans to build Lexus brand vehicles in Europe. But even if you listen carefully, you won't hear anyone laughing in Germany.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]