NY Times Magazine on Toyota – Part 2
More from Sunday’s long NY Times piece…
We’re used to Jeff Liker saying good things about Toyota, but also Bill Gates?
“It’s influencing just about every major company in the world, in that they’re asking the question: What can we learn from Toyota?” says Jeff Liker, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan who has written several books on the company. Indeed, what you can learn from Toyota is something that even Bill Gates has pondered publicly.
Through some Google searches, I am having trouble finding a reference to Gates praising Toyota. Has anyone seen this?
The second part of the article is titled, “Kaizen Means Never Being Satisfied“, which talks about Toyota’s “long view”:
Toyota’s overarching principle, [Jim] Press told me, is “to enrich society through the building of cars and trucks.” This phrase should be cause for skepticism, especially coming from a company so adept at marketing and public relations. I lost count of how many times Toyota executives, during the course of my reporting, repeated it and how often I had to keep from recoiling at its hollow peculiarity. And yet, the catch phrase â€” to enrich and serve society â€” was not intended, at least originally, to function as a P.R. motto. Historically the idea has meant offering car customers reliability and mobility while investing profits in new plants, technologies and employees. It has also captured an obsessive obligation to build better cars, which reflects the Toyota belief in kaizen, or continuous improvement. Finally, the phrase carries with it the responsibility to plan for the long term â€” financially, technically, imaginatively. “The company thinks in years and decades,” Michael Robinet, a vice president at CSM Worldwide, a consulting firm that focuses on the global auto industry, told me. “They don’t think in months or quarters.”
Are you skeptical about Toyota’s goals being sincere or is it just a marketing ploy?
Toyota certainly aims high when it comes to “big hairy audacious goals”:
Toyota’s president, Katsuaki Watanabe, who like all of the company’s top executives is based in Japan, recently declared that his dream for Toyota is to build a car that does not hurt anyone and cleans the air when it’s running. This is not quite as fantastical as it sounds. Several automakers are developing cars with sensors that literally prevent them from crashing (though not from being crashed into). And in the heavy intersections in Tokyo where air quality is poor, Takahiro Fujimoto told me, part of Watanabe’s vision is already real: “The emission gas of some advanced cars is in fact cleaner than the intake air.”