Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?

1st Gear: Toyota Earns The Most Patents In 2012

Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

If you want to get a sense of how smart a company is, how forward-looking it is, just check out how many patents they get. That honor goes to Toyota, who received 1,491 U.S. patents in 2012, up 31% over 2011 according to Automotive News.

Patents show the company is still investing in new technology, new ideas, and pushing their employees to pursue them. The car development cycle means that a car that's going to be sold in 2018 is already being planned in some office. There's someone in a lab working on engine cooling for it. Another person is developing new ways of weaving the carpet to resist stains.

As you'd expect, GM comes in second with 1,374 patents, a 26% increase. That's quite an accomplishment although GM's response to the story was unnecessarily snippy:

"Different organizations measure patent and innovation leadership differently," a GM spokesman wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News. "While many recognize GM as the industry innovation leader, the only measure that matters to us is what is a relevant application to the vehicle and benefits our customers."

Despite being far from the third biggest automaker, Honda had the third most patents with 1,074. This bodes well for their future.

While some of these patents no doubt include new, exciting methods of combustion, a lot of them are hum drum but important like "materials to help vehicles repel inspect splatter."

2nd Gear: Why Automakers Are Getting Into Bed

Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

Hey, look at that, GM and Honda are getting together on fuel cell technology. Someone told me they're the 2nd and 3rd biggest recipients of U.S. patents this year…

Karl Henkel takes another pass at the news and the larger context of automakers teaming up to deal with immense problems. If politics make strange bedfellows, environmental politics is the Al Green mixtape that gets those bedfellows in the mood.

Henkel says "this may go down as the year of automaker alliances" with 12 collaborations between automakers and 30 between suppliers announced so far this year. That's double for automakers and we're only half-way through 2013.

“It is very counterintuitive when you think about it, but at the end of the day, automakers recognize the expertise that one entity has and the other one doesn’t,” said Aleksandra Miziolek, director of Dykema’s Automotive Industry Group, in a telephone interview. “But frankly, it’s a necessity and that’s why you’re seeing it more and more.”

3rd Gear: GM Shows Up VW In China

Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

VW's beigekrieg seems to be stalling a little bit lately, but they have good news in China. The company reported they've sold 1.54 million vehicles in that market so far this year, says Bloomberg.

GM, on the other hand, sold 1.57 million, and they don't include Macau and Hong Kong in their numbers.

As China is the biggest market for both GM and VW, for them to vanquish the other on the road to being the world's biggest automaker they need to do well there.

4th Gear: Ford Issues $0.10 Dividend

Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

If you're a Ford shareholder you're going to get $.10 for every share you've got in the third quarter reports the Detroit Free Press. This is probably a sign that Ford has had a good quarter given this is what they did in the first two quarters of the year.

That being said, I'm not 100% sold on the divined model being a predictor of anything. GM kept issuing dividends right up to the end when they should have spent all that money making better products and investing in technology so they'd have never had to go bankrupt.

I think many of the people (not institutions) who bought Ford probably just want the stock to go up.

5th Gear: Ram Builds A "Black Express" Truck For Probably Very White People

Why Toyota Is Still The Largest Automaker In The World

And now present the "baddest-looking" factory-built truck on the market, according to Chrysler. it's the Black Express and it's the truck's base-level Hemi V8-powered model all murdered out.

This includes black front fascia with fog lamps (sadly not also black), black grille, black bumpers, black badges, and the removal of all body-side badging.

The Black Express will start at $26,955 for the regular cab model in RWD. That's a pretty good deal.

Reverse: Dymaxion!

In 1927, Fuller first sketched the Dymaxion car under the name "4D transport." Part aircraft, part automobile, it had wings that inflated. Five years later, Fuller asked his friend, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, to make more sketches of the car. The result was an elongated teardrop design, with a rear third wheel that lifted off the ground and a tail fin. Fuller set up production of the Dymaxion car in a former Locomobile factory in Bridgeport in March 1933. The first model rolled out of the Bridgeport factory on July 12, 1933—Fuller's 38th birthday. It had a steel chassis (or frame) and a body made of ash wood, covered with an aluminum skin and topped with a painted canvas roof. It was designed to be able to reach a speed of 120 miles per hour and average 28 miles per gallon of gasoline.

[HISTORY]

Neutral: Dividends As a shareholder is it that important to you? It's rarely that much money and, when properly invested in product, often yields more.

Photo Credit: Getty Images