I've got a piece up at the Guardian on Toyota's "stunning fall from grace."
For decades, auto executives from around the world made the pilgrimage to Toyota's factories to learn its methods of lean production and continuous improvement. The famed quality guru W Edwards Deming helped Toyota set up its manufacturing methods after being spurned by complacent US auto makers. Detroit thought its dominance could never be challenged, and certainly not by the Japanese with their fleets of small, cheap compacts. Since then, a generation of business school students has studied Toyota's management and manufacturing techniques. Now its safety woes are certain to find their way into business school case studies on how to ruin a company's reputation.
Toyota's woes have come as GM and Ford have been making a comeback in quality and market share, a year after skeptics were wondering whether the U.S. auto makers were done for:
It is worth remembering that a year ago, the question of whether there would even be a US auto industry was being hotly debated. GM's annual report included a caution that the company's ability to carry on as a "going concern" was in doubt. Even those who supported the rescue of GM and Chrysler wondered whether it would simply postpone the inevitable.