Q2 Why is Toyota in such good shape?

A2 During the second half of the 1990s, when the United States was in the midst of the information technology (IT) bubble, the best-selling vehicles in North America were sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and other large vehicles with poor rates of gas consumption. The fall in demand for oil following the Asian economic crisis.

Reaching global leadership in the auto industry through Toyotacaused the price of oil to decline to between 10 U.S. dollars and 30 U.S. dollars per barrel. These low prices created an environment in which people were not concerned about fuel efficiency.

However, the increased political tension in the Middle East where there is a concentration of oil-producing countries-following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent war in Iraq led to a rapid rise in oil prices.

The rapid economic development of major emerging economies, such as China and India, also led to a brisk increase in the demand for energy, spurring on an upturn in the international oil markets.

In the September 2007, the price of U.S.-produced light, sweet crude oil broke through the 84-dollar-a-barrellevel on the oil futures exchange of the New York Mercantile Exchange and rapidly reached a new trading range. With the rise in gas prices, fuel-efficient automobiles, particularly those made by Japanese auto-makers, increased in popularity. As Toyota sold fuel-efficient hybrid cars such as the Prius, which has a combined gasoline-electric motor, it attracted efficiency-conscious consumers worldwide.

In 2005, partly because of the quality of its vehicles and the fact that they rarely break down, Toyota became the first Japanese automaker to gain a 32.2% share of the U.S. auto market (according to data compiled by the U.S. research company Autodata).

In 2006, its market share increased to 34.8%. Meanwhile, GM's vehicle unit sales fell 8.8% from the previous year, although Toyota's sales increased by a significant 12.5%. Moreover, for the first time in the U.S. market, Toyota's unit sales overtook those of Chrysler, making Toyota the third-largest automaker in the United States.