Maybe the Great US Auto Industry is a Goner.

Greg Neil speculates that maybe the construction industry will be first to invent a 21st century version of what Toyota did, and the US will pass out of contention in the manufacture of automobiles over the coming decades. (Ps: Toyota is a major player in the housing industry in Japan ….)

In the 1950s, Japan was really listening. Life itself was at stake. For fifty years now, our executives in Detroit have had the opportunity to listen, and have not been listening. We have been copying Voltaire’s idiot, Candide, spouting “It’s all for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” I remember when my friend George Kuper returned from an early visit to a Toyota plant in Japan with a covey of US executives, who were puzzled, “What possessed those Japanese businessmen to try and convince us that they were running automobile plants without inventories and warehouses?”

Are essential qualities that have made this a great country disappearing? … no longer relevant? What were those of earlier eras in this country listening to? What are those running the automotive companies today listening to?

© Copyright 2006, Chauncey Bell and BABDI, LLC. All rights reserved worldwide.

3 thoughts on “Maybe the Great US Auto Industry is a Goner.

  1. Robert Wilson

    Let us all hope for the time when the tide will turn. If the US auto industry were to be gone what would replace it? What would we do? Vehicles currently produced by General Motors are better than they were even 2 years ago and more and more models are emerging that show real promise in useful style and design.

    The thinking in these companies seems to be so ingrained and stuck that there really seems to be very little room for any different stuff. Even different stuff that shows great promise and “value” eventually gets snuffed out. It is going to take some real perserverance to be able to last the long term for the opportunity to really bring some new thinking about how we are inventing our future inside these companies. I guess more than a little luck will be required to actually get in a position to bring some of that change. If the garden ever does really take root though, watch out. You can’t believe the kind of momentum that can be created in organizations of this size – just turns out that the momentum is rolling down this weird hill right now.

  2. Bob, you actually studied with Deming. What is the mess in the heads of American executives that our great enterprises cannot commit themselves to learn what we need to learn from Toyota? They have never hidden what they were doing from us, it is not magic, it is not a matter of Japanese biology, etc.

    The situation is way “past the Pale.”

    Good to see you here. Thank you for commenting.


  3. Robert Wilson

    It isn’t like what Toyota knows is something that isn’t known by these senior people in the us auto industry. Maybe it is just that the sense of what “we” do is broken. The kind of momentum and rigor that you see in Toyota can only come from a strong commitment that is made at the highest levels of the company and is shared to the operator envelope. I’ve not experienced what that “WE” culture might be like at Toyota and I’ve only a couple of Kaizen experiences at Nissan. It just seems to me that the “we” is missing, there are too many islands protecting their shores and too little let us find a way to make this work TOGETHER. WE is/are what make the things in this world. Without US there are no things. Which is more fundamental?

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