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Toyota became the number 1 sales leader in the U.S. in 2009, something that General Motors held tight to for decades, although oftentimes pundits wondered why GM boasted about its market share leadership while profits and brand image tumbled.
At least at GM, that drive to be the sales leader isn't the primary focus.
"GM is still one of the biggest car companies but I would say we don't care about being the biggest anymore, because we're not," said a GM source who works in the company's marketing group in Detroit. "Thank god that's not a concern anymore. We just need to be the best."
The hunt to be the biggest can be difficult. Even Toyota's own CEO lamented that the company had lost its focus.
Toyota will come back bigger and better than before. This fiasco was a wakeup call. Toyota suffered from some of the same arrogance that caused the collapse of GM, the idea that they were above the needs of the public and they get to decide what the public needs
Chinese car and battery maker BYD Co, backed by US billionaire investor Warren Buffett, said it will start sales of plug-in hybrid cars with solar panels to the public in Shenzhen on Monday.
The company said it will go ahead with the plan to sell the car to mass consumers as planned, despite rumours that it might postpone the date while waiting for the government to announce new consumer subsidies for new energy cars.
“There had been some rumours that we might delay,” BYD spokesman Paul Lin told Reuters in a telephone interview on Sunday. “This will be an upgraded version of the F3DM that we have sold to government and corporate clients.”
They'll be back but maybe not as strong as before. On their side is the fact that they've currently only got one domestic civilian car company to compete with, and Ford is making some rather good products these days.
Toyota’s problem with unintended acceleration has been blamed on everything from the position of the floor mats to the shape of the accelerator pedal to glitches in the cars’ software. There may be another cause: Cosmic rays.
It’s not as crazy as you might think.
Cosmic radiation has been known to wreak havoc on the chips in electronic components. According to LiveScience, some scientists believe that could be one cause of unintended acceleration and other problems Toyota owners are reporting. The automaker has recalled 7.7 million vehicles since November, and investigators are trying to figure out what’s going on.
LiveScience says federal regulators are taking this possibility seriously after receiving a tip suggesting the design of Toyota’s chips, processors and software could make them especially vulnerable to cosmic radiation. According to a USA Today analysis, speed-control problems comprise a higher proportion of Toyota owners’ complaints to authorities than any other automaker. But Toyota is hardly alone in facing this threat — electronic components play an ever-larger role in controlling our vehicles, so theoretically it could happen to any car.
“Radiation is certainly a potential cause of Toyota’s problems,” Ewart Blackmore, a researcher at TRIUMF, a cyclotron in Vancouver, told LiveScience. “What’s not known is what direction Toyota and other automakers are taking in terms of finding and correcting these issues.”
LiveScience offers a concise explanation of cosmic rays, so we won’t explain them here. These high-energy particles constantly rain down on the planet and can “flip” or alter a bit when they pass through a chip, causing what’s called a single event upset. That can be anything from data loss to function corruption. In other words, a circuit designed to carry out a benign action may be reprogrammed to do something unintended.
This issue has been extensively researched in the military and aerospace sectors but has been largely unexplored by automakers, LiveScience reports. Given the increasing role electronics play in our daily lives, that must change.
“Most everything we do is becoming reliant on digital-information processing,” Lloyd W. Massengill, director of engineering at Vanderbilt (University) Institute for Space and Defense Electronics, told LiveScience. “We are approaching the case where a single bit of critical information may be stored with just a thousand electrons; a single particle can easily overcome such small charge quantities, leading to bit corruption.”