Toyota is the best carmaker in the world because it stays close to its customers. “We have learned that universal mass production is not enough,” said the head of Toyota’s Tokyo Design Center. “In the 21st century, you personalize things more to make them more reflective of individual needs.”
In 1999, Toyota committed to a $13 billion investment through 2000 to become a genuinely global corporation without boundaries. In this way, it will be able to create worldwide manufacturing facilities that produce cars according to local demand. Its goal is to achieve a 10 to 15 percent global market share by 2010.
Why the drive towards customization of vehicles? Part of this is due to fierce competition that provides consumer with a multitude of choices. The Internet enables consumers to be more demanding and less compromising. They now have access to the lowest prices available for specific models of vehicles with all of the bells and whistles they design. From the comfort of their homes, they are able to bypass dealers and still find the vehicle of their dreams.
Senior management at Toyota believes that kaizen is no longer enough. The senior vice president at the Toyota USA division, Douglas West, states that his division is committed to both creating and executing a new information system to drive the fastest, most efficient order-to-delivery system in the North American market. Toyota management has come to realize Kaizen alone can no longer predict business success. The sweeping changes taking place in the business environment can no longer rely on the kaizen philosophy of small, sustained improvements. In fact, one expert in the industry believes that “pursuing incremental improvements while rivals reinvent the industry is like fiddling while Rome burns.” Competitive vitality can no longer be defined by continuous improvement alone.