By on November 25, 2010

There is no “all clear” at Toyota. The company is still “on a crisis footing a year after the first of a wave of recalls of more than 12m vehicles.” This is the bottom line of an article the Financial Time wrote after talking to Shinichi Sasaki, the board member responsible for quality at Toyota. What is even more interesting: The article was put on The Nikkei [sub] newswire, which brought it to worldwide attention.

Sasaki makes some alarming statements:

“I don’t think the crisis is over. If we step down the level of our efforts at this point in time, it may mean we are sowing the seeds of crisis once again.”

Criticized for its insular, bureaucratic corporate culture, Toyota is contemplating the unthinkable: They are searching for foreign or female members for its all-male, all-Japanese board, Sasaki said. Diversity on a Toyota board? Someone call the police.

Sasaki is also preparing the public for the possible news that Toyota might hand the title “world’s largest carmaker” to GM. Sasaki said Toyota had won that race by default, and only because GM had serious engine trouble. Sasaki and Toyota would not “despair” if ToMoCo would become #2.

We had prognosticated last August that GM could dethrone Toyota this year. Everybody, including the perennial China-haters, thank China for buying much more than 2 million GMs this year.

Everybody thinks Toyota has left the crisis behind, but Shinichi Sasaki insists on disagreeing:

“If we truly feel all these people are looking and heading in the same direction as the company, we can say the crisis is over. But we’re still in the process of getting everyone looking in the same direction and taking the appropriate steps.”

Toyota was in a bad place (the U.S.A.) at a bad time. It got hammered by the recall affair. It lost market share in the U.S. and Europe. Ironically, GM did not pick up the share. Ford and Hyundai did. Toyota eyes the Korean competition with growing alarm.

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8 Comments on “Rattled Toyota Turns To Women, Foreigners For Help...”


  • avatar

    Mr. Sasaki is right to be concerned. He knows building and selling cars sometimes has more to do with culture then it has to do with quality. He has recently seen the political culture take a strip off Toyota and has in the past seen the minivan culture generate huge profits for the first out of the gate. Sure he’s worried, all GM needs is one or two home runs over here and they will be King once more. Lucky for him though GM just placed a large bet on the Volt – something that the northern half of north america won’t find overly useful as the temperature drops.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    There are 87 top executives in Toyota, of which 1 is French, 1 is Canadian, 1 is S.African and 2 are American (of the Northern variety). The other 82 are Japanese. In terms of gender split, there are 0 women and 87 men.
    I read the Sasaki interview in the Ft and he said that any such (foreign or female) candidates would “have to be privy to the Toyota way of doing business”. Which means that they have to come from the inside of the organisation. The same gender imbalance amongst the execs is perpetuated down through middle management. I never met a senior person inside Toyota on any continent who was a woman. So what Sasaki probably means is, “it could happen, but probably not before Japan is integrated into the Middle Kingdom”.
    The Toyota Way is seen as their great strength – the (supposed) ability to propogate it’s corporate culture, getting all employees to act and think in unison. However, any student of biology will also tell you that every great mono-culture has an incredible weakness or susceptibility to new forms of attack.
    From where I’m sitting, it seems to me that Toyota’s lack of diversity is the very reason that they appear to be ‘punch-drunk’ half the time and lacking in agility. I think this is where Hyundai has learnt from Big-T. They really have been hiring foreigners and giving them top positions, listening to them and leveraging their specific skills and expertise. Hyundai are learning as they go along. When Big-T hires people, they seek to reset everything they know and teach them how to do stuff the Toyota Way.
    I heard a joke from a Toyota insider. They say that they are supposed to implement the Demming Cycle (Plan Do Check Act) in every activity. The joke went that in Toyota, PDCA stood for “Please Don’t Change Anything”.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Why did the article say “ironically GM didn’t pick up market share, Ford and Hyundai did”. I get it that the writer doesn`t like GM (funny how he doesn`t like “China haters” but is fine with disliking GM). Why was that added? VW didn`t gain market share, nor did Nissan but no comment.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Reminds me of that 1970’s SNL skit where they have
    1 woman saying she’s a republiacn
    1 black guy saying she’s a republican
    1 asian fellow…. 1 latino
    and then the lens zooms out and you have…200 white guys in identical suits saying they’re all republicans…
    Can’t find the video. But loved it back in the day.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Case-comparison in Crisis Management.  Bumbling Toyota Way v. the Get-Out-In-Front-of-The-Issue Quantas Way.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-25/qantas-ceo-joyce-s-a380-trip-caps-textbook-handling-of-engine-explosion.html

  • avatar
    i_godzuki

    It’s hardly unthinkable to have a foreigner on the board. It happened already when they made Jim Press a board member, only for him to quit and go to Chrysler.


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