Tag: Watanabe

By on February 8, 2010

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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