If there is anything that binds Toyota Motor Company and BMW, it is the fact that over the last two decades they have seen their sales skyrocket. Where in the past stood two brands with car lineups that were very specialized (sort of like Subaru or Saab), now you see Toyota and BMW as two of the most valuable “brands” in the world.
History of Toyota
According to Toyota's own record, Toyota Motor Company opened in 1933 as the Toyodamac company, building mainly trucks and engines. It was not until 1957 that Toyota shipped its first car to the United States--this sedan was called the Crown Royale.
History of BMW
BMW got its start making airplane engines and all car manufacturing therefore was shut down during World War I and World War II so the firm could focus on building engines. It was not until after BMW introduced the 2002ti coupe in 1968 that BMW started to make money on their North American venture.
BMW is still a family-owned firm with 48 percent of all stocks and holdings held by Germany's Quandt family. Toyota is not run as closely by the entire Toyoda family, but the chairman and CEO of the company is the founder's grandson.
In 2007, Toyota finally dethroned General Motors as the world's largest automaker when it sold 9.37 million cars compared to GM with 9.3 million cars sold. While BMW doesn't sell anywhere near as many cars, if you take into account its higher profit per unit, then BMW's record sales of 1.5 million in 2007 is very impressive.
BMW has a relatively low volume of output when compared to other manufacturers, but it is their huge amount of cash reserves (saved during the good times) that will keep them solvent through hard times in the new car market. Toyota also has a large cash reserve to get through the hard times, but because of a somewhat bland model lineup, Toyota has one of the lowest customer loyalty rates of any Japanese manufacturer.