Zetsche zaps Toyota's aggressive pricing
Japanese automaker, soon to overtake GM as world's largest, earns ire of competitors.
by Alex Taylor III, Fortune senior writer

DETROIT (FORTUNE) - As Toyota gets closer to passing General Motors as the world's largest automaker, it is beginning to find life uncomfortable near the top of the heap.

The company that prides itself on always being the underdog is now the target of competitors that accuse it of predatory pricing.

At the Detroit auto show, normally genial DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche said, "If you look at net pricing, Toyota is by far the most aggressive [and has been for] a number of years -- consistently. Its market share gains are not falling from heaven."

Another competitor, which asked not be named, accused Toyota of talking out both sides of its mouth when it comes to pricing. It notes that Chairman Hiroshi Okuda has been quoted saying that Toyota might raise its prices to give beleaguered competitors like General Motors a better chance to compete.

At the same time, it noted that Toyota's U.S. sales arm is offering super-cheap $199-a-month leases on its full-size Tundra pickup truck.

A Toyota executive acknowledged the cheap lease terms but said they were justified by Toyota's high prices on its truck.

But as Toyota continues to grow -- its global production has risen an astounding 50% since 2000 -- it will lilkely become the target of more such attacks. Top of page

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