"Inventing our path forward, together." Taking responsibility for the Toyota Group, Chairman Akio Toyoda shared his vision with company leaders. We delve into the intention behind these words.
“As the person responsible for the Toyota Group, I will lead the transformation, and hope that I can count on your continued support.”
On January 30, before the assembled press, Chairman Akio Toyoda declared his commitment to leading the Toyota Group.
Ahead of this press conference at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (Nishi-ku, Nagoya), senior managers and genba leaders from 17 Group companies gathered at the venue to hear Akio outline his vision.
Unlike the press conference, in this session, Akio spoke about the company’s past leaders, the core duty of a carmaker, and the attitudes for ensuring that Toyota remains needed in the future.
Committing to our next step forward
Good morning, everyone. I’m Akio Toyoda.
Thank you for joining me today.
One of the reasons I invited everyone here to the Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which is rich in Toyota Group history, is because I wanted us all to consider what lies ahead.
Let’s follow the threads of history back to August 27, 1945, less than two weeks after the war’s end.
On this day, the Toyota Group’s holding company, Toyoda Sangyo, held its first postwar board meeting.
The following members were present.
All those in attendance had sustained the company since its founding.
When they met immediately after the war, what did they discuss?
At that time, the Toyota Group was making a major shift in its business areas, from the textile industry to automobiles and machinery manufacturing, primarily for aircraft production.
With the end of the war, demand for machinery manufacturing had instantly dried up, and the Group urgently needed to figure out how it would operate.
This board meeting was of tremendous significance in determining the direction of the entire Toyota Group.
The session was held not at the Toyoda Sangyo head office, but rather at Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, the Group’s spiritual core.
When faced with a crisis, everyone comes together and returns to the company’s origins.
I believe that’s how our forefathers overcame numerous crises.
And now the same is needed of us.
Today, I stand here in the hope that, on this day, the Toyota Group will commit to our next step.
First, let’s start here.
Passion for invention is the Toyota Group’s true starting point.
This chart depicts the Toyota Group’s lineage, starting with the establishment of Toyoda Shoten in 1895.
Eager to ease the burden on his mother, Sakichi Toyoda immersed himself in researching weaving machines, and in 1890 invented the Toyoda wooden hand loom.
Thinking of others, learning, honing skills, making things, and bringing smiles to people’s faces—I believe that this passion and attitude toward invention is truly the Toyota Group’s starting point.
From there, Toyoda Boshoku and Toyoda Automatic Loom Works were established, extending the company vertically like the warp threads on a loom.
In the 1930s, Kiichiro Toyoda began to get actively involved in the business.
“It is not just about making automobiles. With Japanese ideas and skills, we must create an automobile industry for Japan.”
At that time, the technological standards of Japanese industry were lagging far behind the West.
He, therefore, sought to revamp the country’s industrial base by producing automobiles domestically.
In addition to automobiles, Kiichiro also studied aircraft.
He is said to have told his son, Shoichiro, to “build a house no fire can burn down.”
What Kiichiro wanted to create was happiness for the people of Japan, and a future that allowed the next generation to dream.
Of course, neither an automobile nor the future can be created by a single person.
We need partners to share the struggle, to encourage and elevate each other.
Many companies in the parts, steel, rubber, and electronics industries started following in Toyota’s footsteps.
Not all bore the Toyoda name.
Despite their different backgrounds, Toyota joined forces with partners who possessed a shared purpose: to establish an automobile industry.
As we formed alliances with companies possessing their own unique character and strengths, the Toyota Group’s lineage extended horizontally, like the weft on a loom.