Article about Toyota, Cho, and Localization


    Born in Japan made in USA – 05/30/06 – The Detroit News Online:

    Here is an article about Toyota's Fujio Cho. I don't take the view of another blog, which calls Toyota “racist” for having an solely Japanese board. I'm convinced that Toyota is changing and giving more control outside of Japan. We can argue about the pace of change, but Toyota consistently is moving in this direction.

    It seems like a necessary step in becoming a truly global company.

    “Two years ago, while he was CEO, Cho announced at a conference in Traverse City that Toyota would sustain its growth momentum by shifting more responsibility and decision-making to regional operations. That would help them respond faster to local market demands and conditions.”

    Another quote:

    At the same time, “for the new plant in Mexico, Kentucky is providing expertise and training,” Cho said. Taking on a role previously carried out only by plants in Japan, “Kentucky has been a mother plant to Mexico.”

    And another:

    Next month, Toyota's board is expected to approve a slate of promotions in the North American operations, bolstering the ranks of highly-qualified executives.

    “Toyota appoints Japanese executives to run new plants, he said, but North American managers hold top positions at established factories, such as Georgetown and Cambridge, Ontario.

    “The area we need to work on more is research and development and engineering,” Cho said.

    The Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor employs about 600 engineers who develop upper bodies for many models destined for the U.S. market, such as the new full-size Tundra pickup. But Toyota still develops the platforms, or underbodies, in Japan.

    “I believe R&D functions in America will be localized and expanded rapidly,” he said.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Americans and Europeans are good enough to call the shots in America and Europe, but only Japanese are on the Board of Directors – 100%, always has been that way.

      Here is the current Toyota Board:

      Hiroshi Okud, Fujio Ch, Katsuhiro Nakagawa, Katsuaki Watanab, Tokuichi Uranishi, Kazuo Okamoto, Kyoji Sasazu, Mitsuo Kinoshita, Yoshimi Inaba, Takeshi Uchiyamada, Masatami Takimoto, Akio Toyoda, Tetsuo Hattori, Yukitoshi Funo, Takeshi Suzuki, Atsushi Niimi, Hajime Wakayama, Hiroshi Takada, Teiji Tachibana, Shinichi Sasaki, Shin Kanada, Akira Okabe, Yoshio Shirai, Yoichiro Ichimaru, Shoji Ikawa, Shoichiro Toyoda, Hideaki Miyahara, Yoshiro Hayashi, Chiaki Yamaguchi, Yasutaka Okamura, Hiromu Okabe, Yoichi Kaya

      Not a Smith or a Jones among ’em.

      A new Board is scheduled to elected this month. We’ll see how ready Toyota is to change. Until then, I stand by my statement. If it walks like a duck, and it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…..

    2. Let’s see how many Japanese are on the boards of GM and Ford. None? They must be racist too.

      Saying a Japanese company is racist because they don’t have a Jones on their board is a ridiculous statement. I think it speaks more to your racism than theirs.

    3. GM and Ford don’t have a major presence in Japan. They do in Europe, and their boards contain and have long contained, Europeans.

      Toyota does many things well and there is much to learn from them.

      Further, the Toyota board has openly acknowledged that their failure to include anyone from another culture is a major failing and one they need to correct. Thus far, however, they have been unable to bring themselves to find anyone in the entire world capable of contributing to the strategic direction of their business at the board level who is not Japanese born and raised.

      Call it by whatever name you want, but excluding people solely on the basis of ethnicity or national origin (which Toyota acknowledges it does at the board level) clearly meets the definition of the term ‘racism’ as it is used in the U.S., both legally and practically.

      While your passion is admirable, blind adulation of Toyota or any other organization will not lead you to a better understanding of lean manufacturing.

    4. I don’t care about supporting Toyota, I care about people throwing around the term racist. And “excluding people solely on the basis of ethnicity or national origin” is NOT what they said.

    5. Bill however is correct. It doesn’t matter what you said it only matters what you did. You either walk the talk or you don’t.
      It’s just that simple…


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