On September 1, the Liaoning Toyota Jinbei Technician Institute, a technical academy in China to train automobile technicians that was jointly established by Toyota and Shenyang Jinbei Automotive Co., Ltd. (Jinbei), marked its 30th anniversary.
50 times more vehicles on the road in 30 years
Shenyang is the capital city of Liaoning Province in Northeast China. Being the largest city in the region with a population of about 8.3 million, it is the region’s center of business, economy, transportation and culture. It was 1990 when the institute, then named the Technical Training Center of Toyota Jin Bei of China Automotive Industry, was established there.
First it would be helpful to describe the situation of the automotive market in China, and Toyota and Jinbei back in 1990.
In 1990, the automobile market in China was relatively small, selling only 550,000 vehicles. As of 2019, the volume is now 50 times that amount, selling about 25.8 million units.
Additionally, 30 years ago, Toyota did not have any finished vehicle assembly plants in China. Therefore, the company would make contracts with local manufacturers and ask them to assemble vehicles using auto parts and components shipped from Japan, also known as “knock-down production.” Meanwhile, Toyota continued to consider how to start local production.
At the time, automobiles in China were used primarily as official vehicles and taxis, and there was a strong need for vehicles that were durable and reliable enough to drive on rough roads when transporting either people or goods. That is when Jinbei asked Toyota for technical support, which led to an agreement where Toyota started providing technical support for commercial vehicle production in November 1988.
As such, the “Haise” (or “Haishi”) was born as the Jinbei-brand version of Hiace, with production engineering technology provided by Toyota. It gained popularity as a microbus thanks to its high quality and performance, and the vehicle pushed Jinbei to become the largest manufacturer in this class/category, as it helped to support the people and transportation needed in a China that was rapidly developing.
What can be done to help develop the industry
Similar to how the “Haise” was supporting the lives of the Chinese people by providing mobility, monozukuri (manufacturing) was also being offered to support China’s work in developing skilled talents from its own population – this was the mission of the “Technical Training Center of Toyota Jin Bei of China Automotive Industry,” or the first name the institute/academy was given 30 years ago.
In order to help the automotive industry develop in a place where Toyota didn’t have its own finished vehicle plant, there was a lot of thought given to where a good place to start might be. Through various conversations and the exploration of various options with the China National Automobile Industry Corporation (currently known as the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers), the group in charge of China’s automotive policy, eventually the idea of establishing an academy that could provide training based on Japan’s monozukuri was brought up.
Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, then President and now Honorary Chairman of Toyota, attended the completion ceremony of the new academy in June 1991, and made the following comment:
“One of Toyota’s founding philosophies is ‘monozukuri (manufacturing) is about making people’, which stresses the importance of nurturing people who drive manufacturing first. Based on that principle, we will support the development of excellent skilled talents here.”
It was this thinking, that there needed to be a strong foundation for the automotive industry in the forthcoming era of motorization in China, that led to Toyota to agree to help develop the talent needed with ideas and skills that could be used to support monozukuri. Therefore, Toyota’s “original intention” in its first forays into business in China was to support the development of talent, people that could make automobiles.
The academy’s inaugural class had about 100 students a year; now, it has grown to more than 4,000 students and has over 35,000 alumni. These graduates are now supporting monozukuri in China, as they work for various companies, mainly in the automotive industry.
In 2005, Akio Toyoda was serving as the first head of the China region group. Since that time, he has been heard saying the following:
“Let’s become a best-in-town company rather than a world-best company”
“Let’s create a relationship where we can say thank you to each other”
“People are always at the center of Toyota’s car making”
At any times and in any regions or countries, Toyota has a goal to make cars while thinking about making people in the community happy. The focus is on nurturing talented people who can help achieve this goal.
Toyota can do this because there is proper education provided at schools or at home in each country or region before they join the company. Toyota profoundly appreciates having educated and talented people at the company and in the industry. Such people grow and then contribute to their community. One hope is that supporting the growth of talent will encourage people to say things like “It’s good to have Toyota here” and “Thank you.” It is through activities like that mutual appreciation comes and it is possible to create a relationship of respect.
It is this ideal that Akio wants to hold Toyota to, and is truly a core value that Toyota has cherished since its founding.
To celebrate the 30th milestone of the Liaoning Toyota Jinbei Technician Institute, Akio presented his very own calligraphy of the phrase “不忘初心” (bú wàng chūxīn) to the school. The phrase means “never forget the original intentions.” Toyota will continue its endeavors, taking this intention to heart.