Toyota's Midlife Crisis

Can it appeal to young Japanese buyers?

Toyota Motor Corp.'s commander in chief, Hiroshi Okuda, is beaming. Hundreds of French citizens are gathered to celebrate his latest conquest: a sprawling site for a $727 million factory near Valenciennes, in northeastern France. Okuda seals the deal by laying two stones for the plant, contributing $177,000 to local causes, and planting several cherry trees--proof that Toyota wants to take root in Europe. Then he dons a short kimono and takes up a wooden mallet to open four barrels of hot sake as part of Japanese ritual. The spectacle leaves little doubt that Okuda is serious about extending Toyota's reach around the world.

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