By on November 28, 2017

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Toyota Motor Corp. is shuffling its management team because it’s worried about the automotive industry’s uncertain future. The changes, announced this week in Tokyo, take effect at the start of the new year. Toyota wants to diversify its corporate leadership in order to handle the changing shape of car building and the growing role of “mobility.”

However, an argument can be made that the company might be browning its pants prematurely. While the current nature of the automotive industry appears to be evolving into something else, it won’t happen overnight. Still, company president Akio Toyoda talks of the shifting winds as if someone has placed a gun to his head.

“Over the next 100 years, there is no guarantee that automobile manufacturers will continue to play leading roles in mobility,” Toyoda explained. “A crucial battle has begun — not one about winning or losing, but one about surviving or dying.”

“We will pursue alliances with other companies and other industries,” he continued. “But, before that, it is essential that we concentrate the capabilities of the Toyota Group. Our coming structural change reflects our will that the Toyota Group will tackle this era of profound transformation. This change includes the appointment of people with high levels of expertise, regardless of time with the company or age and from the perspective of having the right people in the right places.”

According to a Toyota press release, those all-important changes include more people from outside the company, a female executive at Lexus, additional non-Japanese executives, and executives with backgrounds in technical positions. The business also intends to renew the roles of executive vice presidents and establish the new post of “fellow” — which is reserved for executives with a high level of expertise.

Presumably, the intent is to get management more involved in the daily goings-on.

Toyota also plans to restructure its business planning and operation divisions rather extensively, especially in regard to how it handles regional activities. The goal here is to become more sensitive to specific regions’ needs while simultaneously remaining fluid and flexible — which sounds like a pretty tall order. If done incorrectly, this could create an inefficient bureaucratic nightmare.

The list of title changes is extensive, and not filled with quite so many “outsiders” as one might imagine. But the sun is only just beginning to rise over Toyota’s “next 100 years,” so we’d imagine more managerial changes are forthcoming. At the top of the pack, vice-chairman of Denso Koji Kobayashi will become Toyota’s CFO and executive vice president — as will Toyota senior managing officers Shigeki Tomoyama and Moritaka Yoshida. Gill A. Pratt, CEO of Toyota’s Research Institute, will become the company’s first “fellow” in the advanced R&D and engineering division.

Additional changes to management are considerable and often include expanding employee duties or condensing them into a single role. They also often serve to strengthen corporate ties between various Toyota Group companies, like Denso or Toyota Tsusho. If you’re interested in a complete breakdown of the restructuring, it’s available at Toyota’s corporate website. All in, the list includes 56 promotions and 121 individually named transfers.

“This is an era in which the correct answers are unknown,” said Toyoda. “Knowing that the customer comes first, we need to have people who understand the workplace well enough to lead with quick judgment, quick decisions and quick action through genchi genbutsu (on-site learning and problem-solving) as they see fit in response to all kinds of situations. To create forms of mobility to which people can feel intimately connected, and to be able to provide the freedom and joy of mobility to all people, everyone working for Toyota will unite in spirit and continuously take up new challenges.”

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32 Comments on “Toyota Losing Sanity Over the Automotive Industry’s Uncertain Future...”

  • avatar

    “A crucial battle has begun — not one about winning or losing, but one about surviving or dying.”

    I feel like I’ve seen that on a text screen in 8 bit glory on my old NES. So much more inspiring than “All Your Base Are Belong to Us.”

    • 0 avatar

      Ahh, the Best and Brightest and Oldest. Where our meme references are Web 1.0. Because that’s the way we like them.

      (And if you pronounce meme as “meemee”, you’re part of the problem.)

      edit: typo

      • 0 avatar

        How old are you Son? I’m 40 years old and can vividly remember getting a “Nintendo Power Pack” for Christmas that had Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and Track & Field – two controllers, light gun, and “POWER PAD”. I also remember my immature self being ticked off that it was a present for me AND my sister – which implied I was supposed to share.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the best post I have read this year.


    • 0 avatar

      Young whippersnappers.

      I can remember when video gaming was hitting the local soda shop with roll of dimes for the pinball machines, having the guy behind the counter make me a chocolate shake with strawberry ice cream, and then dropping a hit of acid before I started playing.

      A couple of years later Space Invaders came out. Nice, but nowhere near the rush.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hydrogen is the future; they should try that. Because, like, it powers the stars.

  • avatar

    Well, nothing lasts forever. Sailing ships don’t dominate the seas anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Ships still operate throughout the world though in a similar fashion. Ships aren’t used as a way to transport people overseas but they still haul freight and passengers.

      • 0 avatar

        To further apply the changes in the shipping industry as it may presage future changes in the automobile industry:

        The passenger ships that still sail are either pleasure-oriented luxuries or short-distance commuters connecting points across undeveloped infrastructure.

        The future of the piloted automobile in the autonomous era will be grand tourers and bro-dozers.

  • avatar
    George B

    Toyota is the last auto manufacturer I’d worry about. They cover most market segments and are reasonably competent in everything from fuel efficient gas electric hybrids to full size body on frame pickup trucks. I have no doubt that they could rapidly branch out into battery electric luxury vehicles or heavy duty 1 ton pickup trucks and delivery vans if they saw a market opportunity. Those vehicle would be at worst boring and/or ugly.

  • avatar

    What a waste of time and energy. Toyota is one of the companies who should have the best idea of where the mobility thing is (read: nowhere near ready)

    • 0 avatar

      They know what’s up. They just need to play along in order to appear “hip” to stock pickers and other immatures.

      In all genuinely growing automotive markets, what Toyota has above all others: Quality processes from the lowest to the highest end; is exactly what aspiring customers are clamoring for above all else. They’ll never rock that boat over some cheezy buzzwords, cooked up to sell nothing more than empty promises to retirees in dying, infertile cities in the West.

  • avatar

    If anything is causing Toyota to go bananas it’s the NAFTA thing, I don’t care what they claim. Toyota builds more vehicles in Mexico than even Ford. And more profitable ones at that.

  • avatar

    People who live and work in dense city centers, or who cross LA-style sprawl may well be more interested in “mobility” than they are in vehicle ownership. Everybody else wants their own car, and will continue to want them for the foreseeable future, for the same reasons they really don’t want public transit: privacy, status, and cleanliness.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure privacy, status, and cleanliness will be essential to mobility if people are willing to pay for it. It’s no different with human driven vehicles. You can pay $2.00 and ride the bus; you can pay more to ride in private in a yellow cab, or you can pay even more than that to ride in a black car.

      Car ownership and driving is a nuisance for most. Right now I have a car I need to sell, and between paying off the balance of the loan and having to deal with tire kickers I’m dreading it. As far as driving, most people hate it. Just today I saw a woman throw up her hands in panic and sadness for being tailgated (which she deserved for left lane camping). Americans in particular are not well trained in driving or stress management which makes driving a car an ordeal.

      And this isn’t even getting into stuff like enabling old folks who shouldn’t be driving to retain their mobility and independence, as well as offer DUI drivers a means of getting around without putting themselves and others at risk. And as much as I like cars, I think this American ideal of tying up our identities in these depreciating consumer goods is no good. Mobility would free folks from that if they so chose.

  • avatar

    Look back 100 years ago and did any one predict the current automotive scene. Some over predicted flying cars, but they probably missed more often then hit. Still some companies (GM) can’t think much beyond the next quarter so you got to give T some credit.

    • 0 avatar

      In 1930, Samuel Vauclain, the CEO of Baldwin Locomotive, predicted that steam locomotives would dominate until 1980. I think they were the largest maker of locomotives at one time. Now they’re gone.

    • 0 avatar
      dash riprock

      ” Still some companies (GM) can’t think much beyond the next quarter so you got to give T some credit.”

      As someone who actively, and profitably, shorted GM in the 2000’s(a small part because they could not plan beyond the current months sales figures) can you provide some colour to your remarks? I see GM, for the first in my life, making good long and short term decisions. So, what are your concerns about GM?

      • 0 avatar

        @dash riprock: I would agree with you. We’ve seen a number of changes in the style of management of GM since Chapter 11, but as of the latest CEO the changes and moves made seem to the best they’ve made in 50+ years.

        I’ve been driving a 2016 Malibu LS (the Uglibu II) for the last couple of days and for the least expensive Malibu of that year, it’s a fine driver for 95% of folks. My kid is leasing it and it has only cost regular maintenance for her.

        It may not be flashy, but very competent. If GM keeps on building cars like this, I see them doing well.

  • avatar

    They’re scared of China. Specifically Chinese government’s EV initiative. Toyota can’t match an autocratic drive financed by the Bank of Asia.

    • 0 avatar

      It takes much, much more than some half literate, hype adled apparatchiks and money printers decreeing stuff in five year plans, to match Toyota (or any other major OEM for that matter, but perhaps in particular Toyota) in efficiency at building things as complex as cars, to an even remotely similar level of quality and consistency.

      Absolutely anything of any meaningful complexity the former can dream of building, Toyota can build cheaper, better and more consistent. And the ingredients that make that possible, is not something the former will ever be able to replicate (as it is to a great extent workforce related), much less in the time it takes this latest hype/fad to be replaced by the next one.

  • avatar

    “This is an era in which the correct answers are unknown,” said Toyoda.

    In what era were the correct answers known?

  • avatar

    Who know what we will imagine in 20 years?

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    My brother has a fairly high executive level position with Mercedes Benz and we were just talking about this the other day. According to him, MB is plenty worried about the future of the automobile and vehicle ownership in the future. Every car manufacturer has to be forward thinking and project sales for the foreseeable future. If they believe they will continue on a downward trend, steps should be taken now to ensure the future of the company. Just ask Kodak.

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