Oh, What a Leader

Toyota head wants company to be world's number one carmaker.

Published: 29-Jan-2003

OIT - As a young Toyota manager in Japan in the mid-1970s, Fujio Cho was assigned to learn the Toyota Production System, which stresses efficient manufacturing methods, from its intimidating creator, Taichi Ohno. One day, Cho demonstrated to Ohno how he had shrunk inventories sharply, accomplishing what Cho had been taught was one of the system's primary tenets.

To his shock, Ohno was furious. "Are you stupid?" he raged. Japan, Ohno said, was coming out of a recession. Consumer demand was about to climb. "This is the beginning of the boom, and we need to add inventories," he said; Cho needed to look forward, not back.

Cho has never forgotten that lesson. As president and chief executive of Toyota Motor since 1999, he is pushing it to become the world's premier automaker. Right now, the company is in front of Ford Motor and behind General Motors in sales.

By 2010, Cho has told employees, he wants Toyota to hold 15 percent of global sales, up from about 10 percent in 2002. That would probably put it ahead of GM, which has 15 percent now but is gradually slipping even as its domestic share increases.

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