TOYOTATIMES

A 95-minute Message Confirming the Current Positioning of Toyota

FROM THE EDITOR 2020.12.04

INDEX

Recently, Editor-in-Chief Kagawa was given a rare opportunity to watch a highly confidential 95-minute-long video. As an internal-only video that was streamed worldwide to Toyota colleagues featuring a passionate presentation by President Toyoda, the contents include a very deep look into Toyota’s past and present, as well as the type of future it has been aiming for.

Since Toyota Times launched and Kagawa was appointed as Editor-in-Chief, it has been nearly two years. During that time period, his reporting has taken him around the world, including places like Germany and the United States, where he has gone and seen things with his own eyes and touched things with his own hands. Knowing what he has seen and done, what did Kagawa think about the passionate message shared by President Toyoda in this top secret video?

All the pieces are now finally coming together

Q Please share with us your thoughts on this video.

Kagawa:
Well, I feel like I understand more about the Toyota of today, and was really happy to have been able to watch this video. I also feel relieved as I rediscovered how all the pieces of what I have been doing for the past two years are now all finally coming together as one whole. Everything is really making sense now.

The mysteries and messages I couldn’t resolve are coming together more and more, and making a lot more sense to me. Today, going one step further, watching the video of the Toyota World Convention, made me feel that I am diving much deeper inside the world of Toyota.

For example, the organization has streamlined the executive organization, eliminated the position of executive vice president, and integrated all the different sections for each part in its production sites. I seem to recall having heard of the concept of “One Toyota”, and these are good examples.

I think the integration of such diverse/complicated sections is the means to increasing the accuracy of the final hardware product, along with a solidified one-team effort to incorporate the software. This video helped clarify the direction Toyota is currently moving in, where the future of the automobile industry is going, and what partnerships through software are like. This has helped me to understand several things, and I have learned what Toyota connected is all about. In a sense, this 95-minute video clearly showed the current battle line for Toyota’s transition.

I felt in their smiles the driving power to move forward

Q The video included a number of vehicles that are not yet announced. What did you think?

Kagawa:
Yes, I think you could say that they were a feast for my eyes. As you know, people of our generation have an invariable sense of excitement before the release of new cars. Last year’s Tokyo Motor Show where President Toyoda resolved to change the vision of future cars completely was originally the type of place where new vehicles are typically announced.

At such places, people who attend are naturally filled with excitement, but, in this case, I felt lucky because I could watch everything in one video. After all, the pleasure that you feel from seeing the unveiling of a new model is irreplaceable.

Essentially, your plate should be full handling the Woven City project.

This itself is already a huge task. Apart from that, there is robotics development in TRI, for autonomous driving, as you know.

This is an extremely sensitive issue in every aspect.

While working on this project, how will they handle the other three pillars: hydrogen, hybrid, and battery electric vehicles?

On top of that, President Toyoda knows everything about the development of hardware for the Crown, the Prius, former motorsports type vehicles, saloon type vehicles, and future vehicles, etc.

Everything has been determined at his discretion, and everyone follows his decisions. It was really surprising that he has been involved with everything in all sections.

What was striking is that everyone in the video, including President Toyoda, of course, had the same smiles.

They are not pessimistic about the current COVID-19 pandemic. Even under such circumstances, they will definitely be all right if they keep believing until “after COVID-19”. Nothing is impossible. Each has a whirl of positive remarks inside with a smile on their faces, and I can sense the driving power in their firm, determined eyes. I can see that. This is why this video makes me feel great.

This video is a welcome distraction from the current economic downturn or lockdowns in places like Europe. Amid a gloomy situation like this, watching this video has made more and more people smile, because it revealed the messages, “never give in” and “never surrender”. Since this video offers a glimpse of a bright future, reminds of solid results of the past, and expresses the very thorough work and efforts that are currently being undertaken, this video will make you smile, and provide you strength and courage. That is why I recommend this video to everyone.

Personally, if Toyota’s employees watch this video, I think they will feel absolutely honored to be an employee of Toyota. However, I do not think that the intent is to make them feel proud. I feel that President Toyoda has really wanted to say these things, and his answers to the questions in the interview are said because all of this was what he really wanted to say.

Kagawa:
What’s more, it is clear that Toyota is passionate about developing vehicles, everything from the LUNAR CRUISER to the Prius. As they keep believing in the future, each member of the group, including the AI, hybrid, and design groups, has been working with an aim of producing happiness for all, by developing people, making cars and things, and ultimately manufacturing ever better cars.
Each and every one of them seems to consistently have such a mindset, and everybody is looking in the same direction. This is why the video makes us happy and smile.

Wanting to know the latest on the project after our coverage

Q. This is the last Toyota Times report in 2020. What kind of topics would you like to cover next year in 2021?

Kagawa:
At the end of last year, I made a resolution to report from a more critical perspective in 2020. I said this when I was in Las Vegas, but my resolve already started to get shaky after I covered the Woven City announcement. Then, my resolve melted away completely after covering the Toyota Technical Skills Academy, because I was so moved by the story.

During my remote/online coverage [after the start of the pandemic], I was amazed when hearing the incredible announcements at the financial results briefing where Toyota said it would overcome difficult times and stay out of the red. I was further in awe when I heard about things like the LUNAR CRUISER and going to the moon, as well as Toyota’s initiatives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, including helping Funahashi (making protective gowns). I do not want to admit it, but I have felt a strong admiration for the company’s firm determination.

So I am not sure what my reporting will be like next year; a lot depends on what the “after-COVID-19” situation looks like. However, as the production frontline becomes more influenced by software, I am curious to know how the software will be installed and how the adjustments made could change the character of the car. This situation is very similar to when an actor has been requested to move in front of the green screen, and the actor asks, “Is this OK?” “How about this?” to confirm the different aspects of the character he is playing. I sometimes wonder if young employees who have graduated from Toyota Technical Skills Academy are ever told all they need to do is just make the external bodies of cars. What if this happens in the future? What if the employees at the production front line want to make cars? Of course, I do not think this will happen any time soon, but if there is a possibility of this shift in the future, I would like to cover it.

I am also extremely concerned about how overseas team members have been coping with the COVID-19 situation, and how they are working now. I would like to continue to see how everyone is doing.

I would like to follow up on Woven City and how this project will be specifically developed. I heard they will make this happen roughly the year after next. There are many projects that we want to follow up on. Regarding the LUNAR CRUISER, President Toyoda said that it could happen anytime soon. I really want to know the latest on that project.

Kagawa:
I want to ride the new Mirai.
The images of it are so cool! When a new vehicle is released, everybody takes so many photos of the whole body.
The footage of the Mirai driving makes you want to drive the car, too. I wish I could join a test drive of such a wonderful-looking vehicle.

At least one time, can we stream a cool video of me on Toyota Times driving the Mirai smoothly, without holding the Osmo [camera]?

Every once in a while, I would like to spend my days-off doing something without any interviews.

Yes, time off.
A “Toyota Times Drive”!
It could be like “A day in the life of Editor-in-Chief Kagawa”.

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