3.3. Bypassing Japan to Make a Global Car
In 1998, an idea emerged that would literally turn the whole company, suppliers included, upside down. It was the project to create the Innovative International Multipurpose Vehicle (IMV), a family of global cars in a production network that bypassed Japan to produce at bases in Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, and South Africa. The IMV would render the concept of "Made in Japan" irrelevant to the Toyota brand. Many Toyota executives and middle managers thought it was either too risky or impossible. Former Senior Managing Director Zenji Yasuda, then Director of Overseas Planning Operations and one of the originators of the IMV, recalled trying to convince Toyota's board:
The issue raised most actively [against the IMV] was the risk of starting production in overseas factories without the experience [of producing it first] in a Japanese factory. I argued that while the financial world and the mass media were operating in a global network, no one in the manufacturing world was. So, if we gave life to the [IMV] concept, we would be able to globalize manufacturing.
Yasuda reminded the naysayers that they would never accomplish anything if they just harped on the risks. He said he wanted Toyota to develop the world's first global manufacturing system. "We wanted Toyota to be global, not just in sales, but in manufacturing too. I persuaded everyone by saying that this was a good chance to homogenize the Toyota Production System globally." ...