By October 28, 2007 1 Comments Read More →

Toyota marks 50 years in U.S.

This month marks a pretty significant milestone, 50 years since Toyota first started selling cars in the U.S. A collection of articles:

Toyota marks 50 years in U.S. Dallas Morning News

It’s important to keep in mind that Toyota was hardly an overnight success:

“Ambitious, detail-oriented Toyota – the most feared automaker in the industry – landed in the U.S. 50 years ago this month with a tiny, tinny thud…. started with one product – the lumbering Toyota Land Cruiser wagon/off-road vehicle – and later got the comical Toyopet sedan, a car that dealers said was overweight, underpowered and often overheated.” (Dallas Morning News)

Toyota has gotten better at product development and in matching supply and production to customer demand, avoiding the waste of overproduction.

“One thing Toyota has been really good at is predicting demand three to five years down the road,” said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. “Their goal is to always build one fewer vehicle than there is demand, and they are very good at hitting it.” (Dallas Morning News)

Toyota’s launch of the new Tundra pickup was hardly a success, but Toyota responded with what sounds like “kaizen” (or continuous improvement) in action:

“Earlier this year, for example, the new Tundra pickup was launched to unexpectedly slow sales. After analyzing sales data and talking to dealers, Toyota realized that buyers wanted more upscale trucks than it was offering and changed the production mix.”


50 YEARS OF TOYOTA — Chicago Tribune

Again, Toyota started slowly:

Toyota sold 288 Toyopet Crown sedans and one Land Cruiser in 1957, its first year in the U.S., a performance so bad the company almost went home.

“It started with a mistake,” said Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. “That car really wasn’t fit for U.S. roads or the U.S. consumer.” (Tribune)

Can you imagine how things would be different here if Toyota *had* gone home? Would Honda have grown to dominate the U.S. market in their place? Would the demise of the Detroit Three have been slower?

Here is a story I have heard before, but it really illustrates the idea of “go and see” management, the idea of going to the “gemba,” or the actual place, to see problems first hand. That’s a core element of the Toyota management system:

Gieszl recalls a story from the 1970s when Shoichiro Toyoda, son of the company founder and later chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., visited the U.S. On one stop, a
dealer complained that certain engines had a flaw that left metal shavings in the oil, causing mechanical problems. When told that a vehicle with that problem was in the service department, Toyoda rolled up his sleeves, reached into the oil, felt the shavings and ordered a fix.”Something like that really sets the tone,” Gieszl said. “When you go right to the scene, there’s no filter of the information coming up. Then you have a real understanding of the situation.” (Tribune)

No filtering of information… I can only imagine how much information is filtered by the time it gets to the CEO’s of Ford or GM. I remember a story about when Alan Mulally was new to Ford and he had to, basically, tell his managers to start telling the truth about problems. Understanding problems clearly is the first step in effective problem solving.

Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author’s copyright.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to receive posts via email.


Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please consider leaving a comment or sharing this post via social media.

Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

Posted in: Blog
Tags: ,

1 Comment on "Toyota marks 50 years in U.S."

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. KHyde says:

    Readers who’ll be in the NYC area on WED., NOV. 14 may be interested in hearing TOYOTA chairman Fujio Cho speak at a noontime event at Japan Society. James McDonald, CEO of Rockefeller & Co., will preside.

    The luncheon is sold out but seats still available for the lecture 1-2 pm; http://www.japansociety.org (Japan Society is at E. 47th Street betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.)

Post a Comment