Report – Toyota has its eyes on the Latin American market image

According to a new member of the automaker’s board of directors, the world’s largest automaker is looking to expand its presence in Latin America where it has underperformed key competitors such as GM, VW and Nissan.

Mark Hogan, former president of Magna International and former General Motors executive, who on June 1 became the first American to serve on Toyota’s board of directors, said Toyota needs to expand its footprint in booming markets like Brazil and Mexico.

“Toyota is an extremely strong brand in Brazil but it under-performs in the market,” Hogan told reporters during a Toyota press event organized to review the company’s hybrid technology (the future Prius and the new fuell cell vehicle). “We only have about 5% market share. It should be higher,” he said.

“Brazil is a very important market for Toyota,” added Hogan who ran GM do Brasil for several years. One of his key assignments as a new board member will be to help Toyota expand its foothold in Latin America.

“We have a terrific dealer body in Mexico but we also underperform in Mexico,” added Hogan. Toyota’s market share “South of the Border” is a modest 5% — well under half its share in the U.S. and a fraction of Mexican market leader Nissan.

Toyota has entered into partnership with Mazda to open a new assembly plant in San Luis Petosi, Mexico that will open in 2014, Hogan noted. Toyota is locked in a three-way battle with rivals Volkswagen AG and GM, which have staked out substantial positions in China to challenge Toyota’s crown as the world’s top-selling automotive company.

Toyota has been struggling in China due to the backlash from a political dispute between the Chinese and Japanese governments over ownership of a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. But while Toyota also lags in Latin America, it faces future political obstacles to growing its share there.