1.1. An Amazing Track Record
Fifty years ago, Toyota Motor Corporation dipped its toe into the big pond of the U.S. automobile market with a tiny car that could only have been viewed with derision. It was 1957—an era of huge front-end Buicks and tail-fin Cadillacs. As one of the company founders Shoichiro Toyoda recently described it, the Toyopet Crown couldn't make it onto the highway unless the on-ramp was downhill. But true to its practice of continuous improvement (kaizen), Toyota kept on trying to get it right. It went on to produce the more sensible Corona in 1965, followed by the Corolla, the Camry, the Lexus, the Prius, the Tundra, and you know the rest.
Toyota is now a top dog and has become, by all conventional measures, an amazing company. In 2007, it sold 9.37 million cars and trucks, to rival General Motors as the world's biggest auto producer. In profitability, Toyota's net income has consistently surpassed the other auto companies by a factor of over two to one for the past several years. And thanks to a high rate of growth (averaging 11 percent in recent years) and profitability, Toyota's stock (market capitalization) at the end of 2007 was worth two times that of the next contender (the then) Daimler Chrysler, and almost 14 times that of General Motors, its largest rival.
The Toyota brand has also become synonymous with strong engineering, durability, and dependability. Surveys on vehicle quality by the marketing information firm J.D. Power and Associates consistently ...