Automaker moves from upstart to powerhouse

first_imgBy Muhammed El-Hasan Staff Writer American consumers may have had an inkling of Toyota Motor Corp.’s ambitions when the Japanese carmaker introduced its first car for the U.S. market, the Toyopet Crown. A few years later, Toyota introduced the Tiara, and later the Corona – a Latin word for crown. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Half a century later, Toyota is on the verge of dethroning Detroit-based General Motors Corp. as the world’s No. 1 automaker. Today, Toyota marks 50 years in the United States, a milestone made more impressive by the Japanese carmaker’s extraordinary growth and transformative effect on the American auto industry. Also this year, Toyota marks a quarter century since opening its U.S. sales and marketing headquarters in Torrance, a far cry from the firm’s humble beginnings in a Hollywood office. “Their success is not a mistake,” said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “They believe in hard work, execution, details. They have worked hard to keep the DNA of the company everywhere they grow in the world.” Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales USA employs about 2,100 workers in the South Bay and nearly 1,100 in Long Beach. Beyond Toyota’s direct employment, the carmaker also has a “significant” economic impact on the area, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “They’re doing marketing, which includes purchasing advertising, collateral material,” Kyser said. “They’re doing a lot of things there.” Other beneficiaries include local restaurants that cater corporate events and hotels that house visiting executives. Toyota has also added to Torrance’s stature as a business-friendly city and hub for Japanese businesses. Toyota’s arrival in the United States preceded the arrivals of two other Japanese carmakers – Nissan in 1958 and Honda in 1959. Honda still has its North American headquarters in Torrance, but Nissan moved its U.S. sales and marketing headquarters from Carson to Nashville, Tenn., in 2006. Toyota may have had great ambitions when it entered the world’s largest car market. But the company stumbled early. And badly. “It was a travesty,” said Irv Miller, group vice president of corporate communications, regarding the meager 287 Toyopets sold in 1958, its first year in the United States. Yet, the failed Toyopet is also a symbol of the company’s resilience and devotion to kaizen, a Japanese word for continuous improvement. The Toyopet, designed for Japan’s rudimentary post-war roads, was underpowered for American freeways. So Toyota created a new, more powerful car specifically for the American market called the Corona, which caught on quickly after its 1965 launch. “You could say the Corona was the answer to the lessons learned by the Toyopet,” Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said. Those lessons are evident at the Toyota Automotive Museum in Torrance. In one corner, three Toyopets are parked in a row, each bulging hood housing a 65-horsepower engine. The base price was $1,989. Next to them is the Tiara, then the Corona, which had 90 horsepower and a $1,760 base price. Dozens of Toyota vehicles – including pickups, concept cars and the Prius hybrid – line the museum’s showroom walls, with more rows of cars in between. The progression of Toyota vehicles over the years paralleled the carmaker’s growing sales and service network in the United States. In fact, starting from scratch may have hindered Toyota’s first plunge into the U.S. market, said Susan Sanborn, the museum’s curator. “We didn’t have dealerships and service garages, so people had to carry their own parts. So in 1957, 1958, that was probably a disincentive,” Sanborn said. “And we’re launching 12 years after World War II in a foreign market. There were 80 automakers in 1957 when Toyota entered the U.S. market, so it was stiff competition.” Like other foreign brands, Toyota began by competing on price, then mileage and quality. Each time Toyota gained a strong position in a category, its competitors closed the gap. Fifteen years ago, for example, Toyota vehicles had a fraction of the number of defects as its competitors. That difference is much smaller today, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Toyota’s emphasis on quality and efficiency has been so successful that competitors copied it. Even companies in other industries and nonprofits such as hospitals have tried to emulate Toyota’s processes. “Everybody else’s quality has improved. And (Toyota) saw that,” Cole said. “So they said, `What other pillar can we build on?’ And they chose to build on a green image.” Toyota’s green image comes from its efficient production methods, high-mileage conventional vehicles, and its hybrid Prius, the best-selling gas-electric vehicle. But even now, Toyota is losing its lead in this area as other carmakers, even those best known for their large SUVs like General Motors, begin to offer hybrid vehicles. “You never can own forever what is the intellectual high ground. ? So they’re potentially vulnerable,” Cole said. “So they will make sure that whatever comes along, they can play that game very well.” What is coming along may involve further development of existing projects to limit car emissions such as plug-in hybrids and hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, and so-called intelligent transportation systems to reduce congestion, Toyota’s Miller said. “All of us have to stop being vehicle companies and transform into transportation companies because it’s going to be a lot more than just a vehicle as we move into the next era,” Miller said. “Today, there’s vehicles. Tomorrow, they could be mass transportation systems.” While considering Toyota’s first 50 years in the United States, Miller added: “The next 50 are going to be wild.” muhammed.el-hasan@dailybreeze.com160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Threecourse alfresco power lunch anyone

first_imgOne of the tempting desserts at Escazú’s Caoba Lounge. No related posts. Caoba Lounge in Plaza Tempo Escazú, located in the eponymous suburb to the southwest of San José, specializes in new European cuisine. The restaurant’s cocktails and tapas are at the top of the priority list, but the menu extends far beyond.Upon entering, guests are given an option to comfortably dine indoors or take a seat on the patio, where fresh air is always on tap. On a breezy afternoon, sipping a basil lemonade is about as refreshing as it gets, though iced tea and carbonated beverages also available. For those who prefer signature alcoholic libations, Caoba’s mojito and green sangria will do the trick. Rebecca Aguilar The menu describes the sumptuous choices in both Spanish and English, but servers are also well-versed on the restaurant’s fare. Possibly the best excuse to check this place out is the three-course lunch special, which comes with a beverage, an appetizer, an entree and dessert.Recommended starters include the mango caprese, a ripe mango with mozzarella cheese, and arancini, made with risotto and Brie surrounding carrots and peas, placed over an avocado aioli.Main course choices run the gamut, from chicken sandwiches to lobster. The fresh pasta comes with tricolored noodles, cherry tomatoes, spinach and beets, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Order the “Entraña de res,” and you’ll be presented with an elegant platter of lettuce salad, slices of beef and yucca.Dessert is – as usual – the toughest choice of all. If you know how to choose from ice cream, Chocolate Forest (brownie and mousse) and a peanut-butter-infused treat accurately dubbed “Temptation,” please explain.The food at Caoba is quite good when the seasoning is kept under control, and for the most part, dining there was a delightful experience. The restaurant staff was friendly and helpful, offering suggestions and explaining exactly what goes into each dish.Prices for lunch and dinner dishes range from $11-17 per person. The lunch special costs $13, but you’ll try several items on menu. Desserts run between $5-8 each.Caoba Lounge is located in Plaza Tempo, on the Próspero Fernández Highway next to CIMA Hospital, in the southwestern San José suburb of Escazú. It is open from Monday through Saturday, noon-midnight on weekdays and noon-2 a.m. on weekends. Lunch specials run from 12-3 p.m. For more information visit or  Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Chronicling Californias Affordability Issues

first_img in Daily Dose, Featured, News, Origination, Secondary Market California is no stranger to affordability issues, but a new report by The Mercury News reveals that today’s buyers pay nearly nine times the median annual income—$100,000—for a home in the Bay Area. The report, which is compiled of stats by Clever Real Estate, said San Jose, California, is the least affordable metro in the nation, requiring nearly 10 times the median income to buy the average home. The typical Bay Area home buyer in the 1960s paid about twice the median annual income for a house, while home hunters today pay nearly nine times the median annual income, according to a new study by Clever Real Estate. The region’s median annual household income is roughly $100,000.“It’s a crazy disparity in some parts of the country,” said Thomas O’Shaughnessy, head of research at the St. Louis-based discount real estate website. Although affordability has declined in most major cities, he said, “it’s really the most noticeable in San Francisco and San Jose.”Home prices nationally have taken off so far in 2019, but home prices have leveled off in California after peaking at $928,000 in May 2018, according to data from CoreLogic. CoreLogic also found that California’s housing market in recent months has turned around. The report states that existing homes sales increased by 10.6% month-over-month in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernadino, and Orange Counties.While this is an increase from April, home sales are down 2.7% from 2018, and the 22,300 homes sold for the month was the lowest for that month since 21,754 were sold in May 2015.Homes sold in the San Francisco Bay Area saw an increase of 18.9% from April 2018, but still down 2.7% year-over-year. The Mercury News, though, states real estate agents say prices may be soaring past the budgets of most would-be home buyers, as affordability remains an issue for potential buyers who have trouble saving $200,000 for a down payment on a median-priced home.  2019 Housing Market Affordability california 2019-07-30 Mike Albanese 3 days ago 136 Views center_img Share Chronicling California’s Affordability Issueslast_img read more