Toyota Was Dubbed a Doddering Octogenarian When It Refused To Budge Toward EVs and Now Its Dealers Just Captured 29 Percent of the Industry’s Total New Car Gross Margin

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Sometimes, going against the herd pays off massively. Case in point: Toyota is thriving right now with its hybrids-first strategy, while its competitors, including Tesla, the erstwhile king of the auto space, continue to contend with a challenging demand environment and shrinking margins.

Cox Automotive: Toyota Consistently Has the Most Robust Online Shopper Interest, Low Days’ Supply, and Some of the Healthiest Transaction Prices Within Their Competitive Segment

Cox Automotive recently published interesting insights into the auto market dynamics in the US, noting:

“Toyota and Lexus dealers captured 29% of the industry’s total new car gross margin in February, despite their combined dealer network representing only 9% of the nation’s dealerships.”

In other words, if the entire dealership market in the US earned a total of $1 on all new cars sold in February, the dealers associated with Toyota and Lexus earned a whopping 29 cents of that pie despite accounting for only a minuscule fraction of the total American dealerships!

The report cites a number of reasons that have allowed Toyota to mount this coup d’état of sorts:

  1. Toyota has built a relationship with its dealers that is based on trust, going so far as to collect input from its dealerships on the monthly production levels, which helps to maximize dealers’ margins by aligning supply with the available demand.
  2. Toyota’s hybrids-first strategy is paying off massively, with the company coming second only to Tesla in terms of the total emissions credits sold in 2023.
  3. Toyota topped the J.D. Power Automotive Brand Loyalty study for the second time in a row in 2023.
  4. Toyota and Lexus dealerships are currently two of the industry’s most valuable franchises.

Toyota Vs. Tesla: Who is David, and Who is Goliath in This Comparison?

Toyota’s total vehicle sales for the first 9 months of its fiscal year 2024

In the first nine months of its fiscal year 2024, Toyota sold 2.8 million electrified vehicles, with hybrids accounting for the vast majority of this proverbial pie.

For reference, Tesla sold 1.81 million EVs in the entire 2023. Yet, Tesla currently trades at a forward P/S ratio of 4.79 vs. just 0.01 for Toyota.

We noted earlier this week that Tesla has now recorded its first quarter with negative year-over-year growth in deliveries since the apex of the pandemic-induced mayhem in Q2 2020. With price cuts no longer working to stave off a precipitous plunge in demand, Tesla is now offering to buy back its vehicles in China at 45 percent of the invoice price in three years to support resale values. Moreover, it is also offering zero-interest car financing for the buyers of Model 3 and Model Y in China.

Of course, the Chinese market continues to present a unique challenge to Tesla in terms of the sheer breadth of the oncoming competition. While Xiaomi is all set to challenge Tesla’s ascendancy in the lower price segments with its SU7 EV, BYD has just announced a new all-electric pickup truck that will launch this year and go head-to-head with the Cybertruck.

It is said that imitation is the best form of flattery. Ford is now scaling back its EV ambitions and working on expanding its line-up of hybrid products. This is a huge vindication of Toyota’s strategy.

Perhaps EVs will only make economic sense with solid-state battery cells. After all, when even uber-bullish Tesla analysts, like Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, are sounding the alarm, you should know that rough waters lie ahead.

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