The difference is strategies between the marketing efforts of the 2 similar sized auto manufacturers is an illustrative study in contrasts and probably explains why the one is moving ahead like a juggernaut while the other is floundering about like a beached whale.
consider this article:
Toyota Uber Alles
3 September 2005
By Bob Elton
The most interesting aspect of Toyota's business is how they handle their failures. Take, for example, their forays into the US minivan market. Chrysler invented the genre with the introduction of their Dodge and Plymouth minivans. A few years later, Toyota responded with a small, boxy, mid-engined van, reminiscent of the cargo vans that Chrysler, Ford and GM had sold for years. Needless to say, Toyota's entry didn't even appear on the minivan buyer's radar screen. Toyota then spent a huge amount of money and restyled this van into the smooth and bulbous Toyota Previa. Again, buyers were lined up none-deep.
Toyota's third attempt was closer to a direct copy of the Chrysler vans, but smaller. Although it offered front wheel drive, the vehicle still captured a very small segment of the minivan market. By this time, the big three domestic manufacturers would have thrown in the towel. But Toyota doesn't work that way. They built yet another completely new minivan, the Sienna. Toyota finally got it right, and rapidly carved out a major portion of the minivan segment for their own.
Compare Toyota's persistence to Ford's reaction to the failure of the Freestar/Monterey minivans. After fielding a pair of vehicles that were never designed to be "best in class", Ford appears mystified that they didn't sell as well as the previous Windstar van. Ford promptly fired the managers responsible and announced that they were getting out of the market.
This aspect of Ford's corporate beahviour has been commented upon by no less an authority than Jerry Flint in this article written separately in another publication: full article here:
Ford's Fuzzy Future
Jerry Flint, 08.02.05, 6:00 AM ET
What bothers me at Ford these days is the product planning, which seems to be complete chaos and confusion, as well as an inability to correct problems.
The latest bit of baffling news comes from the trade publication Automotive News--indirectly confirmed by Ford--that Ford plans to kill the Freestyle, a model that has been on the market for less than one year. The Freestyle--besides being the first car ever named after a swim meet--is a crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV), which is a politically correct term for a station wagon.
Ford builds the Freestyle--the companion vehicle to the new Ford 500 sedan--in Chicago. Both vehicles have received good marks in the automotive press for ride, handling and body integrity. The problem is that in the first six months of 2005, the Freestyle found only 35,000 buyers, which puts it on a pace to sell only 70,000 units per year. That is disappointing to Ford, so it appears they plan to kill it and put the name on a new SUV sometime in 2007. The 500 sedan sold only 50,000 units in six months, but they are not killing that model.
So, why discontinue a new vehicle that might not have reached its sales stride and that delivers relatively good gas mileage in a market that's paying more attention to this metric? It's a sign of either panic and confusion or of a war within the Ford executive ranks--I don't know which. Ford's story is that they have so many other crossovers or SUVs coming that they don't need the Freestyle. Yet Ford just spent over $1 billion to prepare the Chicago plant to build the Freestyle and the 500. I don't understand the logic here nor how the plant will make money when they eliminate Freestyle volume. While I hear Ford is killing the Freestyle, the apparent plan is to produce a Mercury version in 2007. I can't understand why it takes Ford two model years to fancy up the Freestyle and turn it into a Mercury. On its own, a Mercury Freestyle will not generate enough volume to cover the costs of producing it.
This is just the latest of the messed-up product planning from Ford
To return to the first article:
Contrast this with the product development ethos at Ford or GM. If a car isn't an instant success, they cut off development money. Everyone associated with the program is considered persona non grata. In fact, the employees responsible are often sent to engineering Siberia or simply pushed out of the company. The knowledge gained, at great cost, is lost. Even the worst failure has a few features worth incorporating in future products. Developments from the Mark VIII, for example, could have been used to great advantage in the Lincoln LS to increase its competitiveness. Instead, everything about the Mark was tainted by failure. As a result, the successful parts of the Mark program were lost forever.
Continued commitment to product is the secret of Toyota's success. Everything else is just window-dressing.
I fully agree with the above analysis as it presents a fair and balanced picture of how the great minds operate in the 2 vastly different corporate cultures!