Can Toyota Regain Its Mojo?


By Phil LeBeau, CNBC Correspondent

NEW YORK (CNBC) -- When Toyota (TM) CEO Akio Toyoda walked on to the stage before his company unveiled a new line of Prius hybrid models, it was a reminder of where Toyota has been in the last year.

And a glimpse of where he'd like to take the company, notably back towards strong growth in the U.S.

Last year, the recall of millions of cars linked to unintended acceleration caused Toyota to suspend production for a month and limited sales. They were up fractionally when every other major automaker posted strong gains in the U.S. Toyota hopes to turn the page in 2011 with Mr. Toyoda saying his company has learned from its mistakes.
More from CNBC
December/2010 Sales Show Toyota's Resilience
CES: The 'New' Auto Show
The Buzz Is Back in Detroit

But Toyota's problems go beyond the recalls.

Its quality and reliability, while still strong, are slipping. And its competitors have closed the gap.

Even more worrisome is the product line-up which many view as relatively boring. Meanwhile Toyota's rivals, especially Ford ( F) and Hyundai, are rolling out new models that are generating buzz.

So Toyota hopes to play to its strength, Prius.

The gas/electric hybrid still dominates that market and Toyota hopes an expanded line of Prius models will extend sales.

With gas prices rising, I think the new Prius models should do well.

It's the established leader in hybrids, and I don't see that changing soon.

But will Toyota in 2011 get back on track as Akio Toyoda hopes? Yes and no.

Yes, I expect Toyota to rebound a bit after 2010. But no, it won't be a full comeback. That will take longer. The market has shifted and Toyota now has to adjust.

The Prius expansion is a start.

Now comes the hard part of rolling out new models that bring back the momentum.

-- Written by Phil LeBeau of CNBC

CNBC is a world leader in business news, providing real-time financial market coverage and business information.

More from Stocks

Video: Here Is Why Carvana Isn't Worried About Amazon

Video: Here Is Why Carvana Isn't Worried About Amazon

Jim Cramer: Okta Is a Very Expensive Stock

Jim Cramer: Okta Is a Very Expensive Stock

Here's Why Tesla's Solar Shakeup Makes Sense

Here's Why Tesla's Solar Shakeup Makes Sense

Dow Rises for First Time in 9 Days, Oil Soars as OPEC Agrees to Boost Output

Dow Rises for First Time in 9 Days, Oil Soars as OPEC Agrees to Boost Output

BlackBerry CEO: Stock Price Should Be Higher, We Are Looking at M&A

BlackBerry CEO: Stock Price Should Be Higher, We Are Looking at M&A