Toyota is the largest carmaker in the world. On April 2007 it overtook the US giant automaker GM for the first time. So, what is the problem then? Since Toyota joined the Formula One in 2002 it has never won a race or ended a season in better than fourth place. Toyota F1 team is a top spender in this industry, with around $500m a year, but cannot beat Ferrari and McLaren. This gives hard time to Toyota’s chiefs, who are not familiar with the situation of not meeting goals. The importance of being a winning team in F1 cannot be overestimated. Since Ferrari won its consecutive five F1 championships in the years 2000- 2004, its commercial cars sales have boosted massively. Success in F1 allows you to implement the newest technology in your commercial cars and also benefit from massive popularity and exposure in the races.
Toyota’s outstanding success in the automaker industry is highly attributed to the Toyota Production System (TPS). Yet, in the F1 world decisions have to be made quickly and tactics and plans are being changed during the races. A delay of a second might be the difference between winning and loosing. The problem is that the F1 is everything but a “lean manufacturing” industry. When the cost of one car engine is $330,000, and it is to be replaced every single race, it is hard to think of words like ‘muda’ fit in this industry. Still, some voices in Toyota are now seriously arguing that the Toyota F1 team should return to the original Toyota way, and adopt the same principles that have made Toyota what it is. Behind the success of F1 teams there is always one very dominant figure that runs the show and makes the tough calls: Jean Todd in Ferrari, Ron Dennis in McLaren, and Flavio Briatore in Renault. In Toyota, by comparison, teamwork is still a key element, as explains Toyota F1 team manager, Mr. Yamashina: "We encourage teamwork and we always have our minds set on kaizen". Open communication,...