Customers drive change

Akio Toyoda spoke in Michigan yesterday. We’ve been part of this process for 10 years now and can testify to how it works making products, services and companies better and more valuable.

From Automotive News:
In his keynote speech at the Management Briefing Seminars, Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda challenged the auto industry to reinvent the automobile and told the gathered executives that they are not in charge of deciding how to to do it.

“All of us in this room might think we are driving change in our companies and in our industry,” Toyoda said. “But we are not.

“It is the customer who is driving change. And if we want to make something happen, we’d better listen and learn the customer’s habits.”

Doing so could allow the industry to discover “a need so big that it calls for a true breakthrough idea,” Toyoda said. “Something bigger than just worrying about how many cupholders our competitor has in their new model.”

‘Contribute to society’

Toyoda said his vision for Toyota follows that of his grandfather, Kiichiro Toyoda, who founded the company in 1937. His grandfather insisted that the automaker should “contribute to society through manufacturing cars,” Akio Toyoda said. That calls upon Toyota staffers “to aspire to a higher cause than just building cars and making money,” he said.

Toyoda admitted, though, that “the severe drop in the economy and auto market has created some of the most challenging times Toyota has ever faced.” Toyota posted its third-straight quarterly loss in the three months that ended June 30 and is on track for its second-straight fiscal year of operating losses.

Toyoda also noted that General Motors Co.’s decision to withdraw from the two automakers’ joint venture in Fremont, Calif., New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., “has created some extremely difficult issues for us to resolve.”

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