Toyota Motor, the world’s biggest automaker and a towering icon of Japanese industrial power, has been stripped of its AAA credit rating under the darkening global economic storm.
The downgrade, said analysts at Fitch Ratings, effectively passes sentence on the entire worldwide auto industry, showing that the business of building cars can no longer produce a single player with the sort of cast-iron corporate resilience of Exxon Mobil or Johnson & Johnson.
“This crisis is demonstrating that the auto industry cannot support a triple-A rating,” said Frederic Gits, a Tokyo-based credit analyst at Fitch Ratings, which issued the downgrade earlier today and declared the auto-industry’s problems “substantial and fundamental”.
Fitch Ratings’ downgrade of Toyota’s unsecured debt to AA deals a stunning blow to Japanese corporate pride, but reflects “severe” turmoil across world car markets and the company’s own spectacular profits warning earlier this month.
To demonstrate the extent of the problem, brokers in Tokyo have recently started circulating aerial photographs of a military airfield in Oxfordshire that has become a colossal warehouse for thousands of unsold cars.