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2009年1月21日 (水)

トヨタ社長交代 非常時の「大政奉還」の意味

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 21, 2009)

Embattled Toyota crowns Toyoda scion

トヨタ社長交代 非常時の「大政奉還」の意味(121日付・読売社説)

Having decided to place itself in the hands of the founding family again, Toyota Motor Corp. apparently intends to make a united effort to rebuild the company's management under the family's leadership.

The automaker has picked Executive Vice President Akio Toyoda, 52, a member of the founding family, as president, a move that could be compared to the "taisei hokan," the return of power to the emperor from the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867. It will be the first time in 14 years that a Toyoda family member has taken the helm of the company.



The business performance of Toyota, which was seen the nation's largest and strongest company, has been deteriorating sharply. This has affected the nation's manufacturers as a whole and has become one of the causes of the serious employment situation.


So the nation's economy can recover, it is essential that Toyota regain its strength. The company's new management should get back to basics so it can carry out a drastic overhaul of its business.


Toyoda is a great-grandson of Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the Toyota group. The family scion became a member of the automaker's board of directors at the age of 44 and has been engaged in such key tasks as domestic sales promotion and projects in China.


This "prince" of the Toyoda family will take the helm of the company after three "chief clerks" from outside the founding family reigned in succession, likely out of judgment that the company needs to start from scratch by overhauling its management strategy.



Limits to cost-cutting efficacy

The company achieved steady growth by strengthening its overseas production using its technology and profits it obtained through stringent cost-cutting efforts, which were compared to "wringing water out of dry rags." Not only has it become the world's largest automaker in terms of production, it looks set to overtake General Motors Corp. as the world's largest carmaker in terms of sales last year.


But as car sales became sluggish in the wake of the global financial crisis, Toyota's performance changed dramatically. Rising prices of raw materials and other factors made it difficult for the company to reduce costs, which had been its chief strength. Exchange rate losses also hit the company hard.


Consolidated operating profits, which once exceeded 2 trillion yen for the group as a whole, have been wiped out in only about a year. This leads us to conclude that there must have been major blind spots in the company's management, although it looked very solid.


The company may have overreached itself as it hurried to grab the position of the world's top carmaker. Some observers say the company grew conceited, assuming that its brand would always sell well. It certainly cannot be denied that the company was unable to shift from a structure under which it was overdependent on North American markets to raise profits.



New strategy needed

Under the new leadership, the company says it intends to shift to a structure under which it could generate profits even if sales declined 20 percent from their peak level. It will be unavoidable for the company to undergo restructuring by scaling down its production and carrying out further job cuts.


But only promoting such austerity measures aimed at recovering earnings would soon cast a shadow over the new president's leadership. To lead this global company, it is important for Toyoda to come up with an aggressive management strategy for making a comeback.


Automakers around the world are facing disaster, which begs the question of whether the auto industry will be able to maintain its place at the top of the manufacturing sector. Toyoda will be tested for his ability to serve at the top of the car industry.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2009)

20091210157  読売新聞)


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