Toyota has been forced to turn over to United States Congressional investigators a “smoking gun” memo produced by its own factory workers that warned management as far back as 2006 of systemic threats to car safety. The two-page memo, which was drafted by a group of long-term Toyota employees and sent directly to Katsuaki Watanabe, the president of the company in 2006, condemns “safety sacrifices” made by the company in pursuit of profit. The memo highlights the inadequate development times for new vehicles and the general decline of craftsmanship at Japan’s most famous manufacturing business. It concludes that vital processes were now in the hands of “amateurs.” The document also offered a prediction of the calamity that was to come, warning that Toyota’s management policies would ultimately threaten the company’s survival.
Toyota, which remains in crisis mode after a global recall of nearly nine million vehicles, will face a growing barrage of lawsuits as a result of its safety problems. Tragically, the failure by Toyota to deal with these safety issues, has caused the deaths of dozens of innocent victims on American roads. The memo warned the bosses at Toyota that an increasing number of problems that led to vehicle recalls were arising not at the manufacturing level, but in the planning stages.
The company has finally acknowledged that it expanded too fast, leaving it with a shortage of necessary specialists. The memo warned of that phenomenon in 2006, blaming the company for sidelining highly experienced workers in its pursuit of growth and profit. The principal author of the 2006 memo, Tadao Wakatsuki, has worked on the floor of one of Toyota’s largest Japanese factories for 45 years.
The memo, dated October 3, 2006, was sent to Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota Motor. It made seven requests of Toyota’s bosses. One of them demanded a review of cost reduction measures “so that the company can guarantee the manufacturing of safe cars.” While Toyota has now acknowledged that senior management had seen the original memo, the carmaker responded to only one of its requests and that was unrelated to safety. The company bosses ignored all of the rest. The memo was written in Japanese, but here are the translated highlights:
The fact that Toyota not only kept this memo secret, but failed to heed the warnings, tells a great deal about how this company dealt with safety issues. It’s obvious that profits and marketing trumped safety concerns and sound engineering judgment.
Source: The Times
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