Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Oracle of Delphi

Toyota execs walked barefoot to school … through a blizzard

13 posts in this topic

Mark Rechtin

Automotive News

July 30, 2007 - 12:01 am

LOS ANGELES -- Toyota's inexorable climb through the sales ranks has led to a popular belief that success in America was preordained for the Japanese automaker.

Not so.

There have been plenty of hiccups, nervous times and downright edgy situations during Toyota's 50 years in America. For instance, the launch of Lexus has become the stuff of legend. But did you know that there was a staunch cadre within Toyota that wanted to see Lexus perish before it was even born? That Toyota's American brass fought with Japan over building a real full-sized pickup with V-8 power more than 20 years ago? That dealers initially gave the cold shoulder to Toyota's entry into the captive finance market?

In a special issue Oct. 29, Automotive News will take a close look at Toyota's 50 years of doing business in America. The issue will examine 25 make-or-break decisions that were crucial to Toyota getting where it is today.

Toyota has faced challenges since its arrival in 1957. Its first effort in this country was a spectacular failure. The Toyopet Crown was underpowered, undersized and underwhelming. After selling fewer than 300 cars, Toyota loaded its remaining inventory onto ships and sent it back home. Dealers had to survive on a meager diet of Land Cruisers for five years.

It took more than a decade for Toyota to get a sufficient foothold so that its sales were no longer lumped into "other imports" in the monthly charts.

Then came 1971, and President Nixon's wage and price controls, the unlinking of the dollar from the gold standard, the elimination of the excise tax on cars, and a 20 percent increase in the value of the yen. As Yale Gieszl, one-time boss of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., put it: "For 90 days, no one knew what to do."

And when Toyota cleared that hurdle, other challenges awaited. When Toyota arrived in America, it was too small to distribute its own vehicles. But as Toyota grew, that meant sometimes taking back the franchise from private distributors.

In Boston, Toyota's relationship with distributor George Butler unraveled in the courts. Butler didn't take losing the lawsuit well. When Toyota's new regional staffers showed up to take over the operation, all the paperwork was gone.

John Turmell, known as Mister Fix-It over his 30-year Toyota career, recounts that none of the new crew even knew where their dealerships were. To make matters worse, when the blizzard of 1978 hit, the roof of Toyota's residence hotel collapsed and Toyota's Eastern Seaboard inventory was underwater in the flooded Port of Boston. Yeah, no sweat.

Automotive News believes that companies don't do things, people do things. The articles in the special issue -- derived from scores of interviews with the people who were there when it happened -- will take readers inside Toyota's boardroom. Despite Toyota's carefully cultivated image of a consensus-driven culture, emotions often ran high.

Recently, I lunched with the SR5 Club, a group of Toyota retirees that meets monthly to talk about old times. They allowed Automotive News to videotape their memories of Toyota's Wild West days of the 1970s.

You can view a snippet of those interviews at www.autonews.com/video. They're a preview of the stories that Automotive News readers will receive when our special issue is published on the week of Toyota's 50th anniversary in the United States -- which, by the way, is Halloween.

How American is that?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>"After selling fewer than 300 cars, Toyota loaded its remaining inventory onto ships and sent it back home. "<<

For a long time I had heard the actual number was either 7 or 9. Could toyoda have been fudging numbers that far back??

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why doesn't the media just get a room with Toyota so they can get it over with. I'm tired of the endless BJ's they are giving this company.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh boohoo, Toyota. You must be the only business in history who ever faced a tough decision.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To Mark Rechtin for writing this article my response is...

So am I supposed to Faint or something? (In Italian English accent)

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"How American is that?" Is this guy for real? How many silly people out there read Toyota's publised PR pieces and truly believe ths BS?

Undoubtedly, getting kicked in the teeth a few times in the '70s and '80s, while Ford and GM got fatter and fatter, has helped to make the soup Detroit is in today. I think this addresses some greater issues that we in the West face today: we are fat and lazy, to put it bluntly. What Toyota has really learned is how to use our own systems against us. Kudos to them. We are getting exactly what we deserve, on so many levels.

In a street brawl, who would you rather put your money on: 100 randomly selected 18 year olds from the U.S/Canada, or 100 randomly selected 18 year olds from anywhere else in the world, outside of Europe? Other than a few whackos loose in the streets, there hasn't been a shot fired on this side of the Pacific in 140 years. Being bombed and invaded every couple generations or so has deeply effected the psyche of the Japanese and Chinese. Perhaps they are just better equipped to deal with the street fights of the 21st Century.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In a street brawl, who would you rather put your money on: 100 randomly selected 18 year olds from the U.S/Canada, or 100 randomly selected 18 year olds from anywhere else in the world, outside of Europe? Other than a few whackos loose in the streets, there hasn't been a shot fired on this side of the Pacific in 140 years. Being bombed and invaded every couple generations or so has deeply effected the psyche of the Japanese and Chinese. Perhaps they are just better equipped to deal with the street fights of the 21st Century.

Pff, who needs to brawl when you have guns? I can assure you that our violent-video-game trained children have an excellent sense of aim.

Now, does Toyota really need another fluff piece?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pff, who needs to brawl when you have guns? I can assure you that our violent-video-game trained children have an excellent sense of aim.

Now, does Toyota really need another fluff piece?

But where are they going to get their guns when they are all imported from Korea and China?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But where are they going to get their guns when they are all imported from Korea and China?

Great point. Actually I would not trust a Chinese made gun not to blow up in my hand.

Chris

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*Scratches my head*

What is this supposed to mean??? What is the point of this article??? What's the point of reading nowadays???

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0