Toyota’s Ordinary General Shareholders' Meeting held on June 16 at its headquarters in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, was conducted with the utmost care to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Shareholders were requested to consider exercising their voting rights in writing or via the internet before deciding to attend the meeting in person.
And in welcoming attendants, in addition to performing temperature checks and providing hand disinfectant, the Toyota Production System was put into play to ensure a smooth reception process and to prevent arrival and seating bottlenecks. In doing so, learnings from the company’s experience in improving COVID-19 vaccination operations were applied.
Another change promoted by the COVID-19 pandemic was remote participation by executives. Top executives of Toyota’s overseas subsidiaries, for whom it was difficult to come to Japan, were on standby to answer questions from shareholders, and their turn to speak finally came about an hour into the Q&A session.
While sharing his concern about the political risk between the United States and China, which are two very important markets for Toyota in terms of sales volume and revenue, a shareholder asked about the situation in both countries.
North America Region CEO Tetsuo Ogawa and China Region CEO Tatsuro Ueda, who were directed by Akio Toyoda to respond, reported on business activities in their respective regions. Their comments illustrated Toyota’s unchanging approach to local communities, even across national borders.
U.S.: Building relationships for mutual thanks
Toyota’s overseas business is supported by our customers in each region of the world, and we are working every day to meet their needs as much as possible.
In North America, we have been building on that since we exported the Crown to the United States in 1957.
We currently have 10 production plants in nine states in the U.S. and approximately 1,500 dealers, with locations in every state. We are striving to take root as a member of North America, as well as to be a needed presence in each community, while also continuing to build relationships in which we can mutually express appreciation with the people of each community.
The U.S.-China relationship has become an extremely difficult one among international relationships. While carefully watching the situation, we would like to continue our daily business without wavering in our desire to be best-in-town and to be needed in each region.
China: Wanting to help solve local issues with Toyota technologies
In May 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Toyota Motor Hokkaido and talked with President Toyoda. And in May 2019, President Toyoda gave a keynote speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
In both cases, President Toyoda talked about how Toyota would like to strive to make its technology helpful in solving various environmental issues in China.
Our sales in China are strong thanks to our customers, our supportive dealers, and the hard work of our suppliers, and I believe that President Toyoda’s comments are connecting with our customers in China and the Chinese government.
Under the leadership of President Toyoda, we would like to do our best to conduct local activities that allow customers and the government to say that Toyota is useful for China, regardless of what happens in the future.
More than 80 percent of the vehicles that we produce in China consist entirely of locally manufactured parts. We want to continue to work hard on such types of activities.
What was common between the leaders in charge of two different regions was Toyota’s long-cherished belief in the importance of being best-in-town.
Not best in the world nor best in the country, but best-in-town
Roughly four years ago in April 2017, with protectionism on the upswing in many countries, Akio said the following at a Global Hoshin briefing conducted internally for Toyota senior members.
Akio (in April 2017)
The world is changing faster and on a grander scale than we have ever seen.
The changes taking place now call into question even things that we thought were common sense, such as liberalism and globalization.
Being exposed to these changes has made me feel more strongly than ever about the idea of aiming to be a company that is best-in-town.
It’s not about aiming for something on a global scale or trying to become the best in the world. It’s about being best-in-town. Our goal is to be the most trusted and loved company in the towns where we operate. Our idea is to work for the smiles of the people in the towns that we serve.
It might be what I call “give and give”. Not “give and take,”, but “give and give”. Without expecting anything in return or any benefit, and always with a sense of gratitude, try to do what you think will purely be for the good of the other person.
Repeatedly doing so will create trust, leading to mutual growth and development. And that, I believe, will lead to Toyota becoming best-in-town.
Taking root in the regions/countries and communities in which it operates and contributing to their development as a good corporate citizen－this long-practiced approach to engaging with local communities is what makes Toyota Toyota.
What is important is that Toyota is accepted by each community, and, by pursuing that goal, the company inches closer to being best-in-town.
In a more specific way, it means contributing to society by creating jobs, earning profits, and paying taxes so that Toyota is needed by the community. This is Toyota’s notion of corporate social responsibility as well as of how to be a good corporate citizen.
The two top executives were on the same note when it came to Toyota’s unwavering desire to be a company that is loved and supported by the people of the towns that it serves.