Many Toyota stakeholders would agree that the most prominent words spoken by Akio is "Let's make ever-better cars." This has been the mantra at Toyota for many years, but since when did Akio start saying this, and why?
At the Global Corporate Policy Announcement on April 1, 2009
Toyota recorded a loss for the first time in almost 60 years in its FY2008 consolidated financial results that ended in March 2009. The company was going through unprecedented challenges with its consolidated vehicles sales dropping sharply.
Akio Toyoda, then executive vice president who was expected to become president in June that year, gave remarks to employees at the announcement of 2009 Global Corporate Policy held in Japan.
While other executives and employees were wearing business suits, Akio was in Toyota’s work clothes (usually worn by plant workers). Although Akio had been confirmed to be the next president, many employees must have been startled with the way he was dressed.
The words that came out of Akio’s mouth in the speech was “Let's make ever-better cars”.
Akio’s resolution and determination were evident in these words. Making “ever-better cars” is the fundamental direction and focus for Toyota in charting its future.
Through these words, Akio called for a change in awareness and attitude of each and every member, although what the word specifically meant may have differed according to each person.
In fact, what made his words convincing was the fact that people knew that Akio had been behind the wheel as a test driver, and had made efforts to understand cars through training and experience.
The power of the phrase was backed up by his life-risking experience as the master test driver trained by his mentor the late Hiromu Naruse (former master test driver), and as Morizo, the car guy who loved cars from the bottom of his heart.
“We make cars. Let’s make ever-better cars, and make our customers happy. We must not forget that, even though we have become a global automotive manufacturer, one of our unwavering principles is putting the customer first. Let’s not be caught up in immediate profits, but let’s review how we do our business and look forward again. If we take one step forward in our own way, I believe it will open up for us a future.”
This is what Akio was trying to convey.
The world is now facing unprecedented turmoil. People have adopted new lifestyles and new values while the speed of technological advancement is accelerating.
At a time when we are going through these rapid changes, the best thing we can do may be to reflect on our roots and reconsider who it is we essentially want to be, and what it is we essentially want to achieve, or the purpose of our work, as Toyota employees came to realize their common mission of “making ever-better cars.”