6.3. Customer First, Dealers Second, and Manufacturer Last

The third philosophical value that serves as an integrative force at Toyota is "customer first, dealers second, manufacturer last." In Japan and overseas, "customer first" is a popular phrase but Toyota has been practicing it for over 70 years, ever since the idea was first articulated by the Master of Sales, Shotaro Kamiya. This concept has shaped the company's unique relationship between distributors and dealers and between dealers and customers globally. This mindset runs through everything Toyota does, including upstream activities such as research and development. "I believe that the idea that Toyota is supported by its customers is the bedrock of our progress," said Shoichiro Toyoda. [] The ability to listen and to hear what the customer has to say has enabled Toyota to differentiate itself from other automakers and stay ahead, according to John Kramer:

I think the other companies have believed too much in their own message. They believed that they were so big and so powerful that they could dictate what the public wanted. .. . Fuel economy is becoming much more important; becoming a good ecological corporation is becoming much more important. As such, our designers hear out those voices over 36 or 40 months and they make design changes. []

The customer first philosophy also permeates the rank and file on the factory floor. Retired factory worker Kiyoshi Tsutsumi, recalled being asked by his boss one day, "Who ...

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