On July 21, it was announced that Suzuki and Daihatsu, both minivehicle manufacturers, will participate in the Commercial Japan Partnership (CJP), a project aimed at disseminating CASE technologies and services in commercial vehicle businesses.
At a press conference for the announcement, President Akio Toyoda described minivehicles as “the ‘people’s car’ made by the roads of Japan” and said that they were “a practical and sustainable lifeline of Japan that has continued to evolve along with people's lives”. At the end of the press conference, a reporter asked the following question.
---What are your thoughts on Suzuki Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki as you announce a new step in the collaboration with Suzuki that started between him and you?
Osamu Suzuki, who retired as chairman of Suzuki in June this year, had been either the president or chairman of the company for a total of more than 40 years, steering management and developing minivehicles into an essential part of daily lives in Japan. Upon receiving the reporter’s question, Akio started sharing his thoughts.
Former Chairman and current Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki gave birth to minivehicles, nurtured them, and advanced them in this country. In other words, I believe that he is the “father” of minivehicles, which now serve as the “people’s car” of Japan.
(As explained by President Suzuki that minivehicles are “works of art”) Osamu Suzuki may be an “artist”, but, for me, he was a father for the automotive industry in that he played a critical role as the driving force behind Japan’s motorization. Although his real son is here two places to my side, I consider him to be one of my fathers.
When he announced his retirement, his words left an impression on me. “Work makes life worth living. Because continuing to take on challenges is what life is all about, I hope everyone will continue to work. Bye-bye,” he said, concluding with words of appreciation.
For me, that “everyone” means the 5.5 million people involved in the automotive industry, including those of us here, and I think that his message was for all of them.
During his active career, former Chairman Osamu Suzuki often said: “We are a small-to-medium size company”, even when we were talking about business in India. The two of us were close enough that I could say to him: “In India, Suzuki is the big company and Toyota is the small-and-medium-size company. Depending on the region, please be careful about calling yourself ‘an old man at a small-to-medium size company’ (Editor’s note: Akio’s wording alluded to the title of Osamu Suzuki’s first autobiography.).”
As he has passed the baton to our current generation, through working hard, I want to make the “old man” or “father” say: “Thank you for all the good things you have done for the automotive industry and minivehicles.”
I don't know if Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki is listening to this press conference, but I would like to ask Suzuki executives to report to him about it, and I even hope that the power of the media will help my comments get through to him.
According to media reports, Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki was watching the press conference live, and Akio’s message seems to have reached him.
At the press conference on February 21 announcing his retirement, Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki had the following to say.
Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki (in February 2021)
I’m not able to foresee the future. I am a kan-puter (Editor’s note: This is a play on the word “computer” starting with the Japanese word for “intuition”.) I just kind of went to India, and, after I landed, I saw what India was about, and things more or less went (well). There are new places or opportunities on earth that we haven’t seen yet, so walk, walk, walk, and discover them with your energy and you’ll be fine.
Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki calls himself “the old man of a small-to-medium-size company” and pioneered the way for the future of minivehicles by insisting on the importance of the genba (where the action takes place) and keeping on the move on his own. Below is what he had to say in a Toyota Times conversation with Akio.
Osamu Suzuki (in July 2019)
What impressed me (about Akio’s actions) was his quickness to appear at the public hearings (in the United States) on February 24, 2010. And with that, he spoke in front of North American suppliers, dealers, and plant executives. On March 1, he went directly from North America to China, and on March 15, he went to Europe. After returning to Japan, he gathered 2,000 people and did the same in Nagoya. It was wonderful—his power of judgment, determination, and ability to take action. Management ability. That’s what I thought.
Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki praised Akio’s ability to take action in the face of crisis. And what Akio promised Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki at this press conference was that he would continue to take action “for the automotive industry and minivehicles”.
It might as well be that Akio’s response to a reporter’s question at the end of the press conference contained a message of gratitude directed only at Senior Advisor Osamu Suzuki.