Toyota Canceled Top-Level Quality Meetings Last Year

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
toyota canceled top level quality meetings last year

As the search for clues to what went wrong with Toyota’s much-vaunted quality rolls on, Automotive News [sub] has discovered that Toyota discontinued top-level quality-focused meetings shortly after Akio Toyoda took over early last year. The “Customer First” quality meetings were instituted under Toyoda’s predecessor Katsuake Watanabe as a response to Toyota’s 2005 recalls. A Toyota executive involved with quality decisions at the time tells AN [sub] that the Watanabe-headed committee simply disappeared over time:

We saw that the whole company and each division understood what they need to do in terms of Customer First operation. It became a daily activity rather than a special activity. So they didn’t need an executive to instruct them. Because Customer First is something like a philosophy, Customer First activities themselves are continuing. But we don’t have an official organization like a committee.

Ironically, Toyoda used the term “Customer First” repeatedly in his comments to the Japanese press last week. How he squares that emphasis with the decision to cut an executive-level committee named for that phrase remains very much to be seen. Meanwhile, his motivations for cutting the program couldn’t be more obvious, as the slow-and-safe approach added months to vehicle development time.

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  • Juniper Juniper on Feb 08, 2010

    Continuous Quality improvement requires continuous attention and nurturing. To have top management drop the meetings just gives people more time to get ready for that other meeting that didn't get cancelled. Yes, in Japan too. The real question is how many lower level quality meetings died when the top meetings were cancelled. Which means things didn't get prioritized or approved or funded. Quality doesn't happen with good intentions all by itself. I think the Crown Prince of Toyota had better watch it.

  • CarPerson CarPerson on Feb 08, 2010

    Public statements are that 100% of the problems were the two issues with the pedal yet cars in Japan were being flashed. Reports are surfacing that , contrary to Toyota claims, the Prius brakes fail for 1-2 seconds very predictably. Now come reports that the legislators who are supposed to be overseeing Toyota have been paid huge campaign contributions and other gratuities. Claiming no conflict of interest, they have so far refuse to step down. The Southern Toyota dealers, responsible for 20% of U.S. Toyota sales pulled all their ads from ABC, claiming the reporting on Toyota is too much. Today’s Seattle Times page A3 was margin-to-margin, top-to-bottom on "The Toyota Issue." Now comes the news reports Toyota cancelled the executive-level Quality meetings. This train wreck continues to unfold before our very eyes.

    • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Feb 09, 2010

      Other than a group Toyota dealers pulling ads from ABC---which I would do, too, if my ads were going to be running parallel with "investigative reporting--- can you substantiate any of those claims, or is this going to be an exercise in Glenn Beck-style "journalism by association"? Anyone can say anything was "reported" by "sources", but I would like to see actual testing and proof.

  • Oldyak Oldyak on Feb 09, 2010

    WOW....lets hear some G.M./Ford/Chrysler bitching NOW....... Hummmmm,kinda quiet out there lately. To bad the previous American car hater Editor(I cant remember his name) isn't around to defend Toyota now.

  • Crash sled Crash sled on Feb 09, 2010

    ====="Up until that point, I thought you had good understanding of the domestic automakers. By the way, Chrysler is the only one of the domestics who’s current situation can not be blamed on their past management, since none of the players in the 90’s (Gale, Stallkamp, Lutz, Pauley, Caistang, et. al.) were in control after Daimler and Cerberus raped and neglected them in that order. Chrysler has not been the captain of their own ship for over 12 years. Before that they were the most profitable of the Detroit 3."===== . . . ...and at NO point in this post do you demonstrate a "good understanding" of the North American automomotive industry, whose base problems... root cause... are a result of overcapacity within the industry. Overcapacity has been the problem. Know it. Accept it. Deal with it. We are, finally, even if it takes idiot politicians in Washington to finally drive it into your head. They are doing that, you know, in their own ham-handed way, even if they are making the taxpayers pay for it. This overcapacity resulted from the certain knowledge that all of the Big 3 would survive no matter what foolishness they engaged in, and that certain knowledge was cemented 30 years ago, when Chrysler was placed on life support. Beyond that date, the Big 3 basically became capital destruction machines... all of them... even more than the steel industry of that era... and that's really saying something. How could they be other than that? Chasing market share is a losing proposition, and eventually somebody has to die. Or they do, if Government Motors doesn't step in. Take your sentimental eyes off Lido's swashbuckling, the minivan revolution, the Hemi, the splashy pickups, cab forward and all the whining about the Germans' destruction of same. Chrysler was the case that broke decades of industry consolidation and creative destruction... and set fire to the North American industry. It's still burning. We are paying for it. Most profitable? Sorry, no. You get sick enough, and then you die. And it only takes one bout of sickness, as we know given automotive history. Had GM and Ford picked over Chrysler's product line 30 years ago, the tech centers and the good people... had the UAW and Big 2 management been forced to face up to the demographic madness their course was taking... had the Detroit Golf Club seen a 5-10% reduction in memberships as a result of Chrysler executives moving on... the North American automotive industry might very well be in a profitable situation today... even through a massive downturn... during which responsible management would have been able to do the necessary cost cutting that brought on survival. You can do none of theis if you're chained to the ball of overcapacity, and Chrysler's bailout locked that ball into place. Life involves death. Accepting that allows us to deal with root cause, and to have a chance to live in prosperity. Chrysler should have been dead 30 years ago.