Honda Aims to Profit from Rivals' Woes

While none of Japan's automakers has followed General Motors and Chrysler into the bankruptcy courts, it is hard to overestimate the sense of crisis triggered by Lehman Brothers' collapse last fall. For Japanese carmakers, plunging sales around the world were compounded by a surge in the value of the yen against the dollar and other currencies, eroding competitiveness at the worst possible moment. In January, Toyota's (TM) new president, Akio Toyoda, called the downturn "a once-in-a-hundred-year crisis." A few months later, Toyota announced its first annual loss in six decades. Meanwhile, carmakers and suppliers have contributed to Japan's unemployment rate reaching a postwar high and, on Aug. 30, an almost unprecedented change of government.

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