Toyota vs. Chevy for Brand Leadership: Chevy Wins

By Michelle Krebs January 4, 2008

Toyota and General Motors are in a you-know-what match about who owns brand leadership for 2007: Toyota or Chevrolet.

We’ll settle the argument: Chevrolet.

Toyota’s argument to count Scion in Toyota Division sales doesn’t wash.

Toyota wants to count sales from its Scion brand – and, yes, Toyota has long called it a brand; we’ll haul out the old press releases to prove it. Adding in Scion, indeed, would put Toyota ahead of Chevrolet (see numbers below). Without Scion, Chevy wins.

Toyota claims legitimacy in counting Scion in its Toyota Division sales totals because Scion models are sold in Toyota showrooms exclusively. Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis told the Detroit News: "We've always counted it that way, and it's sold only at Toyota dealerships."

Toyota is the one of the few that counts sales that way.

Obviously, GM doesn’t count Toyota’s way. "We don't consider Scion a part of the Toyota brand," said Chevrolet spokesman Terry Rhadigan. "On our scoreboard, we're leading."

It appears only Toyota – and Autodata Corp. includes Scion in its Toyota-brand total. Edmunds.com breaks out Scion as a separate brand. So does J. D. Power and Associates. Tom Libby, an analyst for J. D. Power, told the Detroit News: "I don't think for a second that Scion is a Toyota vehicle; it's clearly its own brand.” He added: “You might as well count Pontiac vehicles as Chevrolet sales if you think Scion's a Toyota."

Indeed. Using Toyota’s logic, Lincoln and Mercury would count as one brand since Mercurys are sold exclusively in Lincoln showrooms. Automotive News recently profiled the last Mercury-only dealership, now going out of business. So, today, all Mercury models are sold from Lincoln showrooms.

Toyota, you can’t have it both ways. Scion is a brand. You’ve said so. Scion vehicles wear no Toyota badges, and they are marketed completely differently from Toyotas.

Plus aren’t you being greedy grabbing titles. Isn’t No. 2 U.S. automaker and possible global auto leader enough for now?

Toyota could have the brand leadership title soon enough, since it is narrowing the gap with Chevrolet. Only about 100,000 vehicles -- minus Scion -- separated the two brands.

The 2008 Toyota-Chevy race will be one to watch. Chevrolet will count heavily on the Malibu to keep it in front, while Toyota introduces new models to outpace Chevrolet.

Toyota Division vs. Chevrolet Division - 2007
Chevrolet                                             2,265,641
Toyota (with Scion)                              2,291,648
Toyota (minus Scion)                            2,161,467
Chevy vs. Toyota w/Scion difference         26,007 (Advantage: Toyota)
Chevy vs. Toyota w/out Scion difference  104,174 (Advantage: Chevy)
Scion sales in 2007 totaled 130,181

Analysis provided by Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com manager of pricing and market analysis

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Ken Brown says: 2:41 PM, 01.04.08

Hi, Michelle. I think you are right on target. Toyota plays a similar charade with their "Corolla Matrix," which doesn't have a Corolla badge, and their "Camry Solara," which, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't have a Camry badge. It must purely be to have the opportunity to maximize published Corolla and Camry respective sales statistics.

It's true that the Toyota Division "manages" Scion, but in the eyes of the customers, I feel very sure that Scion is a separate marketing entity.

I wonder if Mercedes-Benz will try something similar with smart...

xcargrl says: 5:10 PM, 01.05.08

Thanks Michelle! I am so totally disgusted with the game Toyota plays with their numbers, the press and the public. They want to massage numbers like mad to win in their book and then issue press releases that being Number 1 is not important to them. When speaking about Toyota beating Ford, Toyota's PR guy, Irv Miller, said the distinction wasn't important to Toyota. "We don't pay a lot of attention to rankings such as that." If they don't pay a lot of attention to rankings, why bother with shuffling numbers. Next Toyota will insist on including Lexus sales. Or maybe they will insist on counting ALL cars manufactured at the NUMMI plant as Toyotas (joke)!

fulcrumb says: 8:18 AM, 01.06.08

Toyota does the same thing with the number of employees they have - counting all their suppliers in the total. Also, many Ford dealers are franchised Mercury dealers without Lincoln. I don't believe there are any stand-alone Mercury dealers or know if there ever were.

Michelle Krebs says: 4:06 PM, 01.06.08

The last stand-alone Mercury dealership is about to go out of business, if it hasn't already.

Ken Brown says: 8:33 AM, 01.07.08

But, on the other hand, Ed Lapham claims in today's AUTOMOTIVE NEWS that Chevrolet used to include Geo-brand vehicle sales in their monthly totals....!! What does that do to this debate?

sheth says: 9:05 AM, 01.07.08

who cares what Chevy did 15 years ago? Besides, Geos did have a chevy emlem incorporated into their logo AND they were known as Chevy Geos before the brand was cancelled. On top of that, can anyone show where claiming GEo sales put Chevy ahead of Ford or anyone else? If not, its a nonissue. This is really nitpicking in order to make excuses for Toyota, the same company that says they are not concerned about sales crowns. That is total BS and this proves it, they are desperate to claim the #1 spot. I'm glad some in the press are mentioning these questionable tactics by Toyota but unfornately this story wont get reported in the non automotive media. Its a joke to say Scions are Toyotas.

michelle krebs says: 9:09 AM, 01.07.08

As I recall -- and I covered it as a reporter for Automotive News -- Chevrolet Geos were sold as that -- Chevrolet Geos. Toyota claims Scion is a brand within a brand. Toyota wants to define what it is -- a brand. If that's the case, it can't count it as part of another brand.

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