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Chapter 4
Let’s Get Lean … Not
One of the things I stated several times in the last chapter, which was
areview of some of the self-inicted disasters created by Packard upper
management over a relatively short period of time, is: This is something that
Toyota would have never done. Starting sometime in the early 1980s, Toyota
showed up on everyone’s radar screen because of the tremendous inroads it
was making in the worldwide automotive market, and, especially, the tremen-
dous success it was having with its vehicles in the United States. GM couldn’t
seem to do anything rightfrom the poor quality of its cars to the poor deci-
sions it made regarding models and platforms (e.g., the look-alike cars from
all GM divisions under Roger Smith) to the poor performance of its plants.
GM finally decided that if you can’t beat them, you might as well
join them, and so it did. In 1984, New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc.
(NUMMI) was formed as a joint venture between Toyota and GM in
Freemont, California, which had been the home of Firebird and Camaro pro-
duction in the United States before the plant was shuttered in 1982 due to
poor performance. I suspect that the main reason Toyota was interested in
such an arrangement was to get some experience setting up a manufacturing
operation in this country before going out on its own. (I doubt if Toyota
thought there was much, if anything, it could learn from GM about car
manufacturing, and it was probably right.)
Toyota obviously learned its lesson well, as it now has wholly owned
operations in Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi as well
as in Canada and Mexico. The company even agreed to allow the UAW
to represent the NUMMI plant, which is something it certainly would
not consider in its own plants. I often wondered if Toyota agreed to this

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