Friday, November 2, 2007

Father of the Hybrid

People ask Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada for his autograph as though he is a rock star because he is the "father" of the Prius.
Recently, I did a story about how he worked on Toyota's Prius, the first gas-electric hybrid to go into commercial mass-production.
The Prius celebrates its 10th anniversary in December.
I did another story about Toyota: How American executives are being wooed away by rivals Chrysler and Ford.
That's a new challenge for Toyota.
Toyota is very Japanese in valuing lifetime employment and employee loyalty.
To get ahead in Toyota (Japanese-style,) a worker must be loyal and stay with Toyota for years and years.
I wrote about Jim Press after a group interview when he became the first foreigner to join the board of Toyota.
And then again when he left.


Anonymous said...

Loyalty is a sensitive issue, isn't it. Are you loyal to your company or to your work/craft? For example, you switch a job because you're loyal to your craft; because you can practice your craft better. Of course, you can be both but in Japan loyalty means mostly your attitude towards a company.
Is Toyota a good company because its workers are loyal? Maybe, but mostly because Toyota produces world-class cars. There're lots of Japanese companies that demands loyalty but are in huge debt or already bankrupt.
Is Toyota worried about the American executives switching jobs to U.S. auto makers? Of course, they should be. But they must be proud too--albeit secretly, behind doors, at karaoke bars. Because if Toyota wasn't a blue-chip company, vying for the No.1 automaker in the world, who would snatch a Toyota executive? One day maybe, although a big IF, a Japanese former Toyota executive may be running GM or Ford. Is this too far-fetched? That would be a cultural shock for Americans. But in a do-or-die situation, anything can happen, right? And in the dire U.S. auto industry, that may not be a worst nightmare.

Yuri Kageyama said...

Good point. But if too many workers are choosing to leave a company, then that's not good news for a company, and possibly a reflection of a problem at the company. Some kind of raiding of a company is probably inevitable but there are many companies that have no problems holding on to their employees because they are happy there.