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"Toyota’s managers were arrogant and complacent"


Per Video zeigt Toyota hier die Arbeit an den Produktionsbändern des Autoherstellers. Quelle: ap

Toyota via video here shows the work on the production lines of the automaker. Source: AP

Mr. Fujimoto, who surprised you the quality problems to Toyota?

The immediate response from Toyota on this problem was simply awful. Toyota’s arrogance towards quality issues that arose indeed from one’s own reputation may be one of the main reasons for the series of missteps have been – nevertheless this seems to be due to yet more problems in the corporate headquarters in the works. It looks as if a complex interplay between production capacity, product complexity, mistakes, bad luck and arrogance of the current problems would have resulted.

But Toyota is now world famous for its production quality. How could this happen?

More generally, the problems at Toyota are for me part of a larger "war", namely, between the complexity of products and organizational skills. Higher environmental and safety standards and increased demands of consumers in the auto industry have led to a complexity that have plagued all of the world’s automakers. An example: Today, involves a complex, well-developed car more than ten million lines of software code, 100 control units and 30,000 hardware. While the companies have tried to reduce the level of complexity, while improving their own management processes, but the complexity problem is not easy to get to grips with. That is why it has not particularly surprised me when I learned that several companies have encountered serious difficulties. So I had already expected for an earlier date. Was rather surprising that precisely Toyota, a company that is just for the product quality of complex vehicles known, would be the first victim.

Why Toyota has denied in the industry, despite the famous Toyota Production System (TPS) and Total Quality Control (TQC)?

Toyota was probably facing the most difficult possible combination of factors – the technological complexity of premium and hybrid cars, a worldwide expansion, the rapid expansion of production capacity abroad and the expansion of the range of models for different markets. Ultimately, Toyota was unable to keep pace with this expansion on a broad front step. However, this is done despite the TPS and TQC, and not because of them. As far as I can determine in view of the past years are TPS and TQC in the production plants as well as in the development centers continued, nevertheless, fundamental improvements are certainly needed.

So, German experts are right when they say that Toyota has grown too strong?

I agree that "growth theory", and I believe that the management of Toyota is doing well now. However, I do not believe that the company’s problems can be attributed simply to the speed of expansion. There are actually car manufacturers, who are in the same period has grown even faster than Toyota. It was like saying rather the expansion of both growth and complexity, which could escalate the situation. What’s more, overtaking some Toyota managers, who saw the possibility of General Motors as the world’s largest automaker, from Toyota’s philosophy of "Put emphasis on the quality, production numbers come about by themselves apparently averted" had – and instead of Maxime followed: "Kümmer you focus on the production numbers, no matter what that means for the quality." On the other hand, Toyota’s management-training method may, workers such as engineers as diverse and inclusive, in the long term it properly. Only that it just takes too long to adapt to your own personnel to quickly obtain a rapid expansion. Obviously, one’s own staff, are responsible for quality assurance could not keep up with the worldwide development of productive capacities. The problems with the gas pedal so might also have to do with it is simply not enough staff for quality control in the U.S. has given to suppliers.

Konzernchef Akio Toyoda versucht den Kurs des Autoherstellers zu ändern. Quelle: ap

CEO Akio Toyoda trying to change the course of the auto manufacturer. Source: AP

CEO Akio Toyoda said to enjoy security and quality a top priority for Toyota. Have if this is so, then have the core values of the company over the past few years significantly delayed, right?

As far as I can judge from my experience at the "Toyota Way" changed basically nothing. However, over at least part of the management in the corporate headquarters apparently removed from the company’s philosophy.

Why Toyota did not notice it?

Overconfidence in our own quality management takes a company to underestimate risks associated with the complexity of vehicle construction, too. While all global car manufacturers need to strive for a balance between the expansion of production capacity on one side and reducing the complexity of the vehicle on the other hand, Toyota has obviously put in comparison with its Western and Asian competitors too much emphasis on especially the production capacity enhance.

Why did the early customer complaints, and some car accidents Toyota have not awakened?

One of my main concerns is the manner in which Toyota understands what the customer really wants. Toyota has always said that they give to the principle of Genba-Gebutsu preference, so always want to orient them how things actually work in practice. This is in factories today, so probably just will not be strictly applied this principle when it comes to the actual drivers in the real world on real roads. Toyota could have been much more attentive to, although weak, but have listened existing negative customer complaints, but their own arrogance may have led to that Toyota has ignored these signals. When accidents or quality problems arose, tended Toyota’s marketing and quality departments in the company headquarters is more likely to experience reactions such as "The problem has nothing to do with the car, it must lie at the driver," or, "If the customer has a different behavior than Toyota might be expected, and there have been so in an accident, Toyota can not be held responsible "and the like, as I have observed on several occasions.

But Toyota is regarded as a learning system that continually strives at all management levels to efficiency or want to learn from mistakes.

As I described in my book "Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota," Toyota has experienced in recent decades a number of crises, including a serious way, which would have meant the end of 1950, nearly of the company. All of these crises had different causes, such as the remarkably slow to adapt to new U.S. emissions laws in the 1970s, a wave of trade tensions, excessive investment in times of bubble economy in the 1980s and so on. The evolutionary learning ability of a company is measured not only by whether it is capable of planned and unexpected successes, but also from their own mistakes to learn. From this perspective one must assess whether Toyota has such a dynamic capability. My observations suggest that there is an evolutionary learning at Toyota, at least in the works and research yet.

Bei zwei kollidierten Toyotas blasen sich im Fahrzeuginneren die Airbags auf. Quelle: ap

If two bubbles collide in the Toyota vehicle’s airbags on. Source: AP

Could it be with a view of the tremendous growth that Toyota has become too greedy?

Some of Toyota’s leadership may be responsible for the overhight growth rate, as they also were aware that General Motors was in trouble. If one wants to characterize the overtaking competitors as greedy, which is less than a specific feature from Toyota of all companies in a capitalist system. Decisive is, however, rather, whether a company has left his rivals behind him, because it has made compromises on quality and safety. In the case of Toyota, this was not a question of greed, but a mistake, a serious doubt.

As Toyota can overcome the current problems?

The manager has to be recruited in a time when Toyota has already become too large and considered themselves infallible, suffer from arrogance, excessive self-confidence and self-centered attitude. Such managers must return to the basic ethos of the Toyota Way and the Toyota system, which has always emphasized a humble attitude in the assessment of difficulties, perseverance in solving problems and a culture of continuous learning.

German companies like the sports car maker Porsche took over the production methods of Toyota. Could you therefore also encounter similar problems?

The production system of Toyota is not the direct cause of present problems of the company, Porsche does not need to be so worried. What do Porsche and other car manufacturers also should rather concern is that they are all part of the same "race" are. And as far as I can tell, has already begun a number of companies that make their own quality systems to the test – which in my opinion is exactly the right way to respond to the problems with Toyota.

Between Toyota and Volkswagen, there are great similarities – successful, globally expanding, high growth targets. You see the danger that Volkswagen could suffer the same fate as Toyota?

Yes, and quite simply because VW has to go through the same obstacle course and VW is a leader when it comes to production volume and complex technologies. VW should therefore try to make an advantage out of trouble at Toyota and increase their growth rate, it could turn out to be risky. Volkswagen enjoys being at least two advantages compared to Toyota. First, it is managed as Volkswagen on common platforms to reduce the level of production complexity, not compromising the need for customer satisfaction. Second, VW has learned from the problems in time at Toyota, Volkswagen, there was a chance of avoiding them. Should it succeed in VW, therefore, avoid excessive complexity and growth, and arrogance, then this could be a strong foothold for further expansion. While still applies: The Leaders have the highest risk that they will be overwhelmed by the complexity of task, VW is no exception.

Takahiro Fujimoto, Professor an der Wirtschaftsfakultät der Uni Tokio und Toyota-Experte.

Takahiro Fujimoto, a professor at the Economics Faculty of the University of Tokyo and Toyota expert.

One reason for the many recalls at Toyota obviously lies in the fact that a component is concerned, which is used in millions of cars. Are the same components, modules and platforms may not be a mistake?

The same components can be good and bad, depending on how a company deals with them. On the one hand you by the same components, platforms or modules effectively reduced the cost and at the same time, with intelligent use, increase the quality of the products. On the other hand, such units in the same company are often used very carelessly, which can have serious consequences. Automotive companies must have an eye on their capacity to ensure the quality of both the individual parts as well as the entire car to be able to, since even Quality-assured and good parts to malfunction – and depending on how they installed and what other parts are combined. Interestingly, the Japanese government has published a few years ago a study showing that most of the recalls resulted from an incorrectly inserted the same components.

Western experts believe that the problems with Toyota and with inadequate supervision of subcontractors may have to do. Can it be?

Yes, especially with regard to foreign suppliers. As for the faulty accelerator pedal, so I see a problem is that the American suppliers CTS is more of a specialist in electronic and mechanical components. Therefore, it may even have been necessary for such suppliers to rely on more stringent approval processes.

Toyota is now facing an epochal task, as visible in the words of Akio Toyoda, sounds, or are just a few course corrections necessary?

I do not think that Toyota has the corporate culture or its organizational capacity overturn. Undoubtedly, Toyota needs to do a lot of homework, but my main recommendation: the company must return to the Toyota Way and improve its processes in parallel, to be prepared for an era that calls for an even more complex cars. Toyota should learn from German, South Korean and other competitors who are successful with this issue previously handled apparent.

Do you believe in a successful comeback from Toyota?

Yes, but I was very concerned about the slow and disastrous ways, such as Toyota to public agitation and the demands of the government has reacted in the U.S.. This is probably a very negative impact on sales of Toyota in the U.S. and in Europe. However, while the company can learn quickly from mistakes, focus on improving its performance and maintain an evolutionary approach in its ability to learn, I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the company. But until then, Toyota has once solved a lot of problems.

What impact do the problems of Toyota for the self of the Japanese automobile industry?

If Toyota back on the right track is, this will have on self-change of the Japanese industry nothing. At the moment, especially the people on the street respond with statements like: "What is happening with Toyota," "Wake up, Toyota!" Or "Toyota was too arrogant to change time itself". But relatively few people expect the total collapse of Toyota and the Japanese industry. The Japanese are much more concerned about the government, the economic situation and some industries and companies behind the apparently behind the world leaders.