Best manufacturer: Toyota is run by car fans, and it's paying off

In some dark and stupid corners of the internet, you will find people calling Toyota an outdated legacy car maker, daft in being slow to full electrification, foolish to pursue hydrogen avenues and having left its best days behind it. (Now check out my Tesla referral code!)

It won’t come as a surprise to the sensible, though, that Toyota at the start of May recorded full-year operating profits of ¥5.35 trillion (£26 billion) – the first time ever that a Japanese company had banked more than ¥5tn.

In 2023, it sold more than 10 million cars worldwide for the first time. Couldn’t we all do with a crisis like that?

In truth, harder times are ahead. Chinese car makers operating in core sectors will threaten every mass-market car maker, with no exceptions.

But while we wonder how some will survive the onslaught, Toyota has several key things on its side.

For one, there’s the reputation of its vehicles for exceptional durability and reliability, hard-earned over decades of making cars that people simply expect to last and last well. 

It isn’t a coincidence that its market share is huge in some of the world’s most remote markets.

And closer to home, it’s not a surprise that you will find its cars used so extensively by private hire drivers.

Second, while Toyota might be behind the curve on introducing fully electrified cars, its proven hybrid powertrains offer great efficiency in everyday driving.

But where we think Toyota has an edge over perhaps any other mass-market brand when it comes to surviving and thriving in an increasingly difficult, increasingly crowded global market is in that it’s a company run from the top down by people who understand and love cars and driving.

Last year, Akio Toyoda stepped down as CEO to become chairman and let someone younger guide the company, but under Koji Sato Toyota has shown no indication that it will let up in making cars that car people want to buy and, crucially, drive.

Toyota engineers admit that without enthusiastic leadership, it wouldn’t be able to make cars like the GR Yaris, GR86 and GR Supra. 

At virtually all points in the car market, from the most affordable supermini to the most rugged 4×4, Toyota competes – and that’s what makes it our best manufacturer for 2024.

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