For more than 50 years, Toyota Motor Corporation has been one of the world’s leading manufacturers of motor vehicles in the United States. It was born a Japanese company in 1935 and came to America in 1957. Now headquartered in Toyota City, Japan, it employs more than 300 thousand employees globally (Toyota Motor Corporation Company Profile, 2012). In addition Toyota is a global marketing organization. It strategically operates primarily through Japan, Asia, Europe, and North America; but its vehicles are sold in more than 170 countries and regions across the globe (Toyota Motor Corporation Company Profile, 2012). The Toyota brand is traditionally defined by brand attributes such as global leadership, innovation, durability, reliability, and sustainability. It represents an industry leading product line of several models including the 1955 flop Toyopet, the 1965 comeback Corona, the Corolla, Toyota trucks, the luxury Lexus, the Avalon, Solara, Scion, and the world’s first hybrid the Prius.
Toyota’s Rise to Number Two As Toyota established itself in the US automotive industry, other players watched in admiration as Toyota plants around the world boasted consistent production of higher quality cars, fewer worker-hours, lower inventory, and fewer defects than any other competitor (Duvall, 2008). Many credited Toyota’s continued success and its ability to roll a new Camry, Avalon, or Solara off of the assembly line every 55 seconds to its application of its core competency, the Toyota Production System (TPS) (Duvall, 2008). Among the various characteristics of this system that made it a success were concepts such as just in time production, real time defect monitoring and correction, waste reduction, and other process knowledge that offered Toyota a sustainable competitive advantage. Toyota’s unrelenting approach in manufacturing was eventually recognized simply as “The Toyota Way”.
Losing its Way
As leadership within Toyota changed over
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