The US-led quality crisis that struck Toyota soon after Akio Toyoda's elevation to its presidency three years ago has led the world's biggest car maker to design 'a new way of doing things' that will be evident in its cars from about 2015, said its R&D chief, Mitsuhisa Kato, at the Frankfurt motor show today.
The crisis, the most challenging in Toyota's history, led to several years of soul-searching, a plan to attach perceived shortcomings on no fewer than six fronts, and the development of a plan to move more decisively from a platform strategy to a more flexible modular architecture system of manufacture. The new system, known as Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is already being implemented around the world.
The company acknowledges that the desirability of it products was lagging, it was losing cost competitiveness, it's quality wasn't perfect and it was failing on the manpower and skills fronts. The difficulty was, says Kato, finding time to attack the problems.
The solution has come through redesigning a series of rather rigid Toyota controlled 'interfaces' which have at times prevented the company from using the cheapest and best components on the market.
Toyota has discovered and began to address the problem, and believes it can improve manufacturing efficiency by 20 per cent plus.
"Everyone knows we have to change," says Kato. "Our basic principles haven't changed but have needed this structural reform. Knowing what to change, and implementing the changes we want is a never-ending process, of course, but we believe we will have made very important progress by 2015.