Toyota Keeps its Eyes on the Customer


by Dan Markovitz

In a refreshing change of pace for the auto industry, Akio Toyoda, who was just named as the new president of Toyota, did not ask for government loans. Nor, in his first public statements, did he express satisfaction with his current level of pay. Or complain about legacy costs. Or competition. Or tax levels.

Instead, he “stressed he would value the needs of customers and stay close to the company's rank and file” (CBS News). If you prefer the WSJ's version (subscription required), Toyoda “promised to lead Toyota's comeback by putting customers first.”

Regardless of how you translate his statement, it's instructive that the president's first comments emphasized the customer — very much in keeping with lean philosophy. And while it's true that Toyota can better afford to talk this way compared to the Detroit Three, it's equally true that it's this customer focus that has gotten the company to this position.

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