Japan does not make the best cars in the world.
Japan does not make the fastest, the most sporting, the largest or the
most innovative cars in the world either, but Japanese cars have
something that puts them way in front, in the mind of the motoring
public. Customer satisfaction.
The latest figures from Europe, for example, are
very telling. From the customer satisfaction viewpoint the best small
car was the Honda Jazz. Lower-medium car was the Toyota Corolla. The
upper-medium bracket was the Toyota Avensis. SUV went to Toyota’s
RAV4. MPV section was won by Mazda’s Premacy, while the only two
European manufacturers listed were the Peugeot 607 for the
executive/luxury group and Porsche with its 911 in the sports car
That should be enough to make the European car
makers sit up, but even sitting bolt upright in their seats, it is
already too late. World number 1, General Motors’ European
operations is on the way to a 6th consecutive trading loss.
Volkswagen, that incredible post-war success story, is going downwards
as well, with its sales shrinking 4 percent. Ford of Europe lost a
cool one billion dollars last year. DaimlerChrysler has seen its
market share go down as well.
By contrast, Japan (and Korea) are on the way
inexorably upwards. Toyota, Mazda, Honda and Hyundai all showing
positive growth in the past 12 months, with up to 30 percent increase
Needless to say the European automakers are full of
tales of woe, citing high wages and similar smokescreens. If high
wages were just it, the local European product should be screwed
together even better than the Asian autos, to produce greater customer
satisfaction. But they aren’t. The man in the street who buys a new
car every three or four years is buying a Toyota or other Japanese car
because it is perceived to be more reliable, not because it is cheaper
(which it is not, in many instances).
However, the European arms of the big international
firms are now finding that they are having to scale down their
operations, because of the downturn in demand. This in turn is
producing stoppages by the European workers, which results in stock
shortages, making it even more likely that there will be a delay for
which the customer will not happily wait. On the other hand, the
Japanese are increasing production. There is no waiting!
In world market terms, GM is reputedly number 1,
Ford is number 2 and Toyota is number 3. But if you look at annual
profits, I think you will find Toyota is well ahead. The Europeans and
the Americans can stop looking over their shoulders to see if the
Japanese are right behind them yet. It’s too late. They’ve gone
right past and are increasing their lead.
Thailand has often claimed that it has the second
largest pick-up market in the world, and I’m not referring to
certain Bangkok bars in Patpong (or similar red light areas near
The USA may be the largest market for pick-ups, but
Thailand has a very strong and solid manufacturing base for pick-ups,
accounting for around 65 percent of total vehicle sales in this
country. Mitsubishi were the first to start production here in any
large numbers in 1995, followed by Ford/Mazda (Auto-Alliance) in 1998,
Isuzu in 2002 and Toyota this year. The Chevrolet Colorado built here
is exported everywhere, as will the new Toyota Vigo, and I even
spotted a transporter full of “Holden” (Isuzu) pick-ups bound for
Down Under going to Laem Chabang.
However, we have nothing, repeat nothing, like the
newly released large pick-up in the US. Forget the Hummers, this new
pick-up is enormous! This is the International Truck and Engine
Corporation’s International CXT (Commercial X-treme Truck).
The International CXT is the ultimate big boy’s
toy, weighing 14.7 tons, 2.7m high and 6.5m long. It is like a
prime-mover, with a pick-up tray and it is made in the US at its plant
in Garland, Texas. “The International CXT brings new meaning to
everything is big in Texas,” said Garland Mayor Bob Day. “There is
nothing on the road as bold, strong and tough as this truck, and we
are delighted that International Truck and Engine Corporation will
manufacture it here in Garland,” where everything is larger than
It can haul six tons with ease having an engine
delivering 732 Nm of torque (enough to tow the Imperial Mae Ping
through the Anusarn market in Chiang Mai), can seat a line-up of go-go
dancers and, for kids over 20 who missed playing with Tonka trucks in
the sand pit, it is the ultimate toy for extreme work and play.
The pick-up is based on a 20 ton chassis used by
International for their severe service trucks used in the
construction, government and waste industries, for example dump trucks
and snow ploughs.
It carries three times the payload of consumer
pick-up trucks, is all-wheel drive, uses air brakes for unmatched
stopping ability and offers towing, dumping and tilt tray capability.
Additionally, it features a spacious interior with
crew cab design that seats five and can be customized to meet
owners’ specific needs - from paint colour to air seats to flat
screen TVs. For example, for people who want to make a statement while
driving in luxury, you can have a customized black International CXT
with ghosted green flames that has a leather interior with wood grain
trim, reclining captain chairs, a fold-down bench that can be used as
a bed, an overhead compartment with drop-down DVD, an XM satellite
premium radio system and a rear-mounted camera for increased
visibility behind the vehicle.
The International CXT features the International DT
466 diesel engine with a horsepower rating of 220 hp and 732 Nm of
torque. The power is transmitted through an Allison 2000 Series
automatic transmission and any roughness in the ride is dampened out
with an air-suspension cab.
“The International CXT is a truck for businesses
that want to promote themselves as much as perform,” said Rob Swim,
director, vehicle centre marketing strategy, International Truck and
Engine Corporation. “While there is nothing tougher or more extreme
on the market than the International CXT, it is as much a statement of
success as it is performance.
“International built the CXT to make a bold
statement,” said Swim. “While we have been building trucks for
more than 100 years, International is a company focused on bold
growth. The International CXT tangibly demonstrates our brand’s
evolution by bringing customers an unmatched innovation that can drive
success - on the road and in their business.”
International state that among businesses for whom
the International CXT is ideal include construction, lawn care
businesses, lawn and garden stores, brick or stone contractors, home
builders, carpenters, landscape designers, roofers, home improvement
companies, auto body repair or custom paint shops, commercial boating
businesses and boat racers. Just what sort of boats do they race in
Texas? The Queen Mary?
So who will be first to order one of these little
gems in Thailand? The projected price I imagine will be around - wait
for it - nine million baht. That would make it about half the price of
a Ferrari, with a lot more chutzpah!