Once every four years, Toyota holds a special world-wide conference, called “Toyota World Convention,” where it gathers and offers thanks to its employees and other stakeholders around the world for their support. It is also an opportunity to share and show the future direction of the Toyota Group. Usually, the event is held at a single location where the top management of Toyota’s dealers and distributors can gather. Though not possible this year due to the pandemic, Akio was still seeking a way to share his message with them.
Therefore, a decision was made to take advantage of the opportunity to do something different and instead hold the company’s first virtual Toyota World Convention. The decision proved to be effective, as by conducting it online, it was possible to share the message with not only the dealers and distributors, but to a much broader audience of Toyota colleagues around the world.
At this year’s event, Akio Toyoda presented and provided remarks to his colleagues around the world. Understanding the COVID-19 pandemic predicament, what did Akio feel needed to be shared? Toyota Times was able to obtain and share a copy of the top-secret convention video of Akio’s presentation with Editor-in-Chief Teruyuki Kagawa. However, since the video was intended only for internal use, the content shared here will omit information that touches upon future plans and/or products, though the Editor-in-Chief reacts to the information.
“Let’s get down to it!” says the energetic Toyota Times Editor-in-Chief Teruyuki Kagawa as he takes his seat. Immediately, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is placed in front of him. The video he is about to see is a top-secret internal-only video containing some highly confidential information, so, naturally, the company asks him to sign an NDA.
“It means highly confidential matters are to be disclosed,” says Kagawa, as he signs his name, anticipation growing. Now it is finally time to start the video.
The pandemic has brought people closer together
Sitting in front of the big screen, Kagawa happily remarks, “It feels like I am all alone watching a movie.” Then, Akio appears on the screen and began his remarks by saying that it was very disappointing for him that the quadrennial World Convention was moved to be online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, in order to express how better days are certain to come, he wanted to be the one to present Toyota’s future, even if remotely.
After Akio expressed his concern and heartfelt sympathies for the employees and their families around the world also experiencing the pandemic, Akio continued, talking about the impact of the pandemic.
It’s difficult to really process or even understand how big this pandemic is,and how upside down the world has turned. It’s amazing how something that has physically separated us has in a way brought us all closer together. I think it’s caused families to become closer, communities to become closer, and even companies like ours to become more united.
It’s caused us all to pause for a moment and think about the things we’re grateful for.
This has absolutely been a year that has encouraged me to consider what I should appreciate.
For me personally, it’s strengthened my determination that Toyota should actively work to help society. We’ve always said our customers come first. But now, more than ever, it’s people that come first no matter whether they are our customers or not.
Although the distance between people has increased, Toyota continues to put its primary focus on people.
Because I believe Toyota has a responsibility to help make this planet and the lives of the people that live on it better.
We are working hard to help our suppliers
Toyota has approximately 360,000 employees in 48 countries and regions. Because of its size, the company is in a position where it is able to make a significant impact on the world through its actions.
In the video, Akio then went on to thank Toyota for its amazingly flexible response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the manufacturing team’s ability to maintain production while adhering to social distance procedures.
Although our numbers will be down year over year, it’s not as bad as we thought it would be. And a lot of that has to do with all of you. Please accept my heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
Of course, the performance is lower than before, but...
Our biggest concern at the moment is our pipeline of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and we are working hard to help them.
Right, about the suppliers.
Now, even though we cannot say exactly when this pandemic will end, we can say with certainty that it will end. And we will get through it together.
COVID-19 will end in time. Everything has an end. He said it confidently.
Commitment to a Once-in-a-Century Transformational Period
After introducing the current situation related to COVID-19, Akio changed
the subject in his remarks and said, “I would like [you all] to [put aside your worry and] look to the future with optimism and excitement.”
Akio explained that Kaizen (improvement) is the key to becoming an even-better Toyota, as is at the center of everything the company does, from improving products to improving the way to work. He called for a unified, global “one Toyota” culture. As one of the initiatives already done to achieve this, he introduced the new building of the North American headquarters. Bringing manufacturing and sales together in the same physical location has led to better communication and efficiency.
Akio then referred to the “once-in-a-century transformational period” facing the automotive industry. Change is approaching in various forms, but “we are ready for it,” he said confidently.
Over the past five years, the company has created Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a research company, to work on automated driving, robotics, and the development of new battery materials. Toyota has also launched Toyota Connected, a mobility services company that utilizes data collected from vehicles to deliver new services, and Toyota ZEV Factory, the development of all-electric vehicles. Finally, Toyota Reserach Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) has also been established to develop software platforms, as part of the initiatives for change.
As the on-screen presentation shows a photo or video of a company he visited for past interviews, Kagawa reminisces, saying something about that location he remembers, such as, “Robotics, electrification. I have experienced them all!” and “I have ridden in an automated vehicle. I hope everyone is doing well.” “These developments are all connected,” he says with deep emotion.
As the video plays, Akio is seen continuing to talk. Next, he is talking about how Toyota is strengthening its partnerships not only within the company, but also with the outside world. In addition to its group companies like Denso and Toyota Tsusho, Toyota is actively working with its direct competitors such as BMW, BYD, and Subaru, as well as partners in other industries such as Uber, NTT, Microsoft, Amazon, CATL, and Panasonic.
This cannot be done completely by one automotive company alone. That’s why President Toyoda asked for “those who will work with [Toyota] to please raise their hand” at the beginning of this year. That’s what he meant.
With partners like these, we are sure to achieve our goal of transforming from an automobile company to a mobility company.