How a company handles its failures says a lot about its strength, and the strength of your portfolio as well. One auto major that has been through thick and thin is Toyota Motor Corp. (TM -0.32%). The company has seen it all in five crucial years from 2008 to 2013.
From snatching the position of world's top car seller in 2008 from General Motors (GM 1.12%), to the security system scandal in 2009-2010, and to the natural catastrophe of 2011, it's been quite a roller-coaster ride for the Japanese manufacturer. It maintained its global supremacy in sales in 2009 and 2010 and again in 2012 and 2013. And the company has not disappointed investors who have stuck with it through the ups and downs -- the stock price has doubled in the last five years. Here are five key reasons why Toyota still remains an excellent pick for long-term investors.
Toyota may register a record profit of 2.4 trillion yen (roughly $23.7 billion) in the current fiscal ending March; thanks to the Japanese prime minister's monetary policy, currency accounted for 80% of the operating profits in the past three quarters. The scenario could remain largely unchanged over the upcoming quarters. But the high profits have not deterred the company from its relentless cost saving initiatives. It saved 210 billion yen in the past three quarters.
Toyota is also focusing a lot on its luxury brand Lexus. This segment offers much higher margins and often ends up being the carmakers' cash cow. Last year Lexus saw record global sales of 523,000 vehicles half of which came from the U.S. -- its largest market. Toyota has set a lofty target of growing the brand 10% each year for the next 30 years, while exploring the emerging markets.
The U.S. auto industry is on a roll, with a 7.6% rise in 2013. If it grows in 2014 as well, it will be its first five-year-expansion streak since World War II. Companies are scrambling to offer new models to consumers as the economy recovers and spending increases. Ford's (F 2.50%) redesigned Mustang and F-150 pick-up are awaiting launches this year.
Toyota's offerings in the U.S. include the Lexus RC-F, in addition to 15 new or remodeled hybrids that it proposes to roll out by 2015. Its efforts to make inroads into the full-size-truck market, which is an area of strength for GM and Ford, may bear fruits with the launch of the redesigned Tundra.
The Japanese automaker has unveiled its Toyota New Global Architecture, which is essentially a platform-sharing strategy. So far the company developed its cars from individual perspective but now it is standardizing processes to gain from its synergies.
Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota's board member for R&D said, "More than half of the parts of each vehicle should be common. We are aiming at 20 or 30 percent cost reduction in the development process." TNGA can serve two important purposes for Toyota -- it can render the cars cheaper and more appealing, and by freeing up manufacturing time it can allow the company to focus more on testing. The first cars are expected in 2015.
The automaker has championed green vehicles -- that is where the future of the auto industry lies. It made history by selling more than 6 million hybrids globally, and is now concentrating on futuristic technology.
Toyota is building plug-in hybrid vehicles that take charge from household chargers, and operate in electric-vehicle mode over short distances. When batteries get exhausted the cars function as conventional ICE autos. So they don't raise infrastructure issues like pure EVs, which need charging stations at intervals for embarking on long journeys.
Toyota has also made significant progress on hydrogen fuel cells, which only emit water vapor. Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle, the FCV, will debut in 2015.
More rewards for investors
Toyota is reluctant in spending $35 billion cash reserves that it amassed due to its harrowing experience in the past few years. Instead the auto major wants to go slow with its capital spending and intends to focus on productivity gains from its existing facilities. But the company did say that it's going to step up its dividend payout. In the last fiscal it paid 20% of its profit as dividends, and now aims to distribute around 30%.
Toyota's current yield of 2% lags Ford's 3.3%. And now that the U.S. government finally sold its stake in GM, the largest U.S. carmaker also announced a dividend that would give a yield similar to Ford's.
The Japanese giant is consolidating its strengths -- it's securing its present by bringing new models to market, cutting costs, and improving its processes as it lays the groundwork for its future by investing in newer technology. This is a win-win situation for both the company and its investors. So, keep your eyes on the road.