Are Toyota Woes an Opening for GM, Ford?

GM and Toyota Tie In Global Sales
A Toyota vehicle is seen at an intersection next to a GMC vehicle in Detroit, Jan. 23, 2008. General Motors Corp. has lost its 76-year title as the world's sales leader, as totals for 2007 released on Wednesday showed the automaker in a virtual tie with Toyota Motor Corp. GM said it sold 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide last year, up 3 percent from 2006. Earlier this month, Toyota reported global sales of 9.37 million vehicles.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Toyota stock briefly plummeted today after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested that Toyota owners in the U.S. stop driving their cars. He later walked back the statement.

But as Toyota struggles to repair millions of cars - and its reputation - its competitors think they see an opening, as CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports.

Toyota's troubles could be just what Detroit has been waiting for: a turning point.

For years, American automakers have been eating the Japanese car company's dust. Now as Toyotas are being pulled off the road and into the shop, GM, Ford and Chrysler may have a chance to turn the sales race around.

"The Detroit Big 3 absolutely has an opportunity to gain some market share here," said Rebecca Lindland+ an auto analyst at HIS Global Insight.

Toyota's U.S. sales slid to a 10-year low last month. And a new survey by Kelly's Blue Book finds more than 20 percent of those who said they were considering a Toyota prior to the recall now say they're no longer considering the brand for their next vehicle.

Even so, Lindland believes the brand is not irreparably damaged.

"But it certainly opens up the field far more, when you have the No. 1 player globally and suddenly they're sitting on the bench just at the time when the market's starting to gain momentum," she said.

Read more about the Toyota recall at CBSNews.com:

LaHood: I Overstated Toyota Warning
Toyota Dealers Get $75K to Win Back Buyers
LaHood: Stop Driving Recalled Toyotas
Ray LaHood Comments Show Toyota Owners' Conundrum
Toyota Prius Drivers Voice Brake Concerns
LaHood: Toyota Resisted Safety Fix
Analyst: Recall Costs Toyota $155M a Week
Does Toyota's Problem Go Beyond Pedals?
Toyota: New Pedal Parts on Way to Dealers

In 50 years of operating in the U.S., Toyota built its reputation on quality and reliability. Their success always attributed to "the Toyota way" of "making things well."

"There's actually a phrase in Japanese - it's called "mono zucchree (ph)," said Benjamin Cole, a former public relations employee for Toyota in Tokyo.

"Toyota even paints under the fabric in the trunk that no one sees," he said.

That attention to detail has kept Toyota at the top of J.D. Power's quality ratings, but the American automakers have been catching up.

"Actually GM and Ford are building very solid products and I think the gap that used to be between at the Toyota at the top of quality and GM and Ford - in our studies we've seen that gap narrow considerably over the last few years," said J.D. Power's John Humphrey.

Toyota has spent decades building customer loyalty. It's not clear just how badly that's been damaged. But Detroit needed some kind of break after going through bankruptcy - and Toyota may have just given it to them.

  • Ken Millstone
    Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at CBSNews.com