Toyota: Continuous Improvement Through Research
Steven Sturm, Group Vice President, Americas Strategic Research & Planning and Corporate Communications, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
Toyota runs their business according to the Toyota Way which relies on two principles:
-respect for people
Toyota entered the US car market over 50 years ago. Their first car, Toyopet Crown, failed; it did not meet the quality or expectations of the US customer. This became the stimulus to meet more of the Americans needs
Toyota is the #1 brand in the US, and Lexus is the #1 luxury brand. Toyota is expecting affluent homes to grow over the next few years.
Lexus: best car and best ownership experience. So they then determined they’d sell Lexuses in their own dealer networks, and they would treated each customer as if they were a guest in their own home. Of 1,600 dealers that applied to be Lexus dealers at the beginning, only 80 were selected.
The #1 selling luxury brand in the US is the Lexus RX.
Toyota’s Concept of Sustainability
Core of what Toyota does is to have respect for people and the environment. They’ve capitalized on this with the Toyota Prius.
It has two power sources: gas engine and electric motor. A computer chooses which to use for maximum use, and the batter never needs recharged because it’s automatically recharged when the car breaks. It went on sale in 1997, and was not a success. They began using a family demo program. They did real road testing and got feedback directly from the customer. This also created buzz. Families felt that they were participating in a breakthrough, and also were getting attention.
People needed to be educated on how the Prius worked, as the technology for the car was unknown. Early adopters began to get their information about the Prius online. It was launched in 2000, and they exceeded their sales expectations from that year on. Media coverage, partnerships, and government incentives to purchase the car have since followed.