Toyota is the most valuable automotive brand on this year's Best Global Brands ranking-moving from #10 to #8. Although Toyota was fined USD $1.2 billion by the U.S. Justice Department in March 2014 and recalled nearly 6.4 million vehicles worldwide just a few weeks later, the Japanese automaker met the crisis head on and kept the reputation of its 77 year-old brand in tact. This year's increase in sales demonstrates growth not only in the U.S., but also in markets like China and Europe. In an effort to enhance functional integration, Toyota recently announced plans to move 4,000 U.S. employees from California to Texas. While the move will generate significant cash savings, Toyota appears to be more focused on the efficiencies it will bring. Toyota maintains the move will enable its sales, marketing and manufacturing teams to come together for the first time.
Traditionally perceived as a solid, trustworthy brand that is perhaps better known for its high quality products than its personality, Toyota's campaigns like "Let's go places" and "Go Fun Yourself" are clearly designed to add a more exciting and playful dimension to its communications. Evolving in another area as well, Toyota has come to recognize the potential of the largely untapped female labor force in its country of origin and aims to increase the number of female executives in its ranks. While only 101 women currently sit within 9,500 managerial positions, a recent Automotive News article indicates that Toyota is committed to driving that number up to 320 by 2020 and 570 by 2030. In addition to increasing diversity within the company, Toyota is also committed to collaboration-a sign that it is already embracing some of the fundamental principles that will be required of leading brands in the forthcoming Age of You. For example, Toyota has collaborated with German luxury carmaker BMW on projects ranging from fuel cell engineering to electric drivetrains. These collaborative efforts have helped Toyota grapple with increasing technology costs, while also ensuring that the brand remains an environmental steward within the automotive sector (Toyota ranked #2 in Interbrand's 2014 Best Global Green Brands report).
An important step forward, Toyota's "Experience the Future of Mobility" exhibit at the Aspen Ideas Festival showcased its "Car of the Future," the brand's first zero-emission hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV). The exhibit also featured a sneak peek at Toyota's Driver Awareness Research Vehicle (DARV 1.5). Using Microsoft's Surface and Kinect, along with custom biometric software, the DARV 1.5 enables the driver, passengers, and the vehicle to work together as a team. It also features technology that automatically enables or disables features depending on who is behind the navigation panel. Toyota is also using the DARV 1.5 to test out new ways for drivers to use wearable devices to control the vehicle's functions. Shortly after the Aspen Ideas Festival, Toyota established the Toyota Mobility Foundation, which the company built to address mobility challenges worldwide. By prioritizing collaboration, investing in mobility, and putting sustainability and innovation at the top of its agenda, Toyota is well positioned to thrive in a changing world.