What happens when the government has a vested interest in a carmaker?
Brian Johnson writes on Toyota and the Union-Backed Government-Led Witch Hunt
There was no government outcry and no demand for Congressional hearings over these [Honda and Ford] recent recalls. So why has Toyota suddenly become the target of a government-led witch hunt?
Toyota’s U.S. operations are extremely successful, not saturated by inefficient union monopolies, and are in direct competition with the now government-owned General Motors.
From their first U.S. factory in 1988, the Japanese company’s success in the U.S. is extraordinary. In 2003, the Camry became the best-selling car in the U.S. and still is. In 2005, Fortune magazine stated: “By nearly every measure, Toyota is the world’s best auto manufacturer. It may be the world’s best manufacturer, period.” In 2006, Toyota became the third-biggest seller of cars and trucks in the U.S. In 2007, Toyota captured second place in the U.S. market, replacing Ford, which had held the No. 2 position since 1931. In 2008, as GM declined and temporarily avoided bankruptcy, Toyota surpassed their unionized competitor becoming the largest automaker in the world.
Toyota’s ability to ascend, while others plummeted, lies in their philosophy based on efficiency and productivity called “The Toyota Way.” This corporate philosophy is not anti-union, rather based on the principle of “kaizen” which means “continuous improvement.” This principle seeks complete quality management by improving local work environments and raising productivity. It empowers executives and plant employees, who are famously authorized by Toyota to stop the assembly line to quickly solve any problems based on their own discretion. Such practices are never heard of and often forbade in other highly unionized automobile facilities.
In fact, the differences in efficiency and productivity (and why the unions are determined to penetrate Toyota’s workforce), do not stop there. When GM fired over 35,000 employees between 2006 and 2008, Toyota laid off zero. GM loses almost $2,500 in profitability per vehicle where Toyota makes almost $1,500 per vehicle. This is largely due to GM’s forced union contracts. GM’s union, the United Auto Workers (UAW) mandates that GM pay, on average, each non-skilled line worker about $33 dollars per hour. This inflated wage includes workers who are “idle,” meaning they don’t have a specific job that day, but can still come to work, sit in a special facility and collect a pay check.
These artificially inflated costs, bound by forced union contracts, are sinking other US auto industries. Toyota has managed to rise above that, not by being anti-union, but by believing in and enforcing a corporate-wide model based on efficiency and improvement.
Now, the agents of the government, which controls GM, are publicly castigating Toyota in an attempt to smear the company and increase their own profitability. As a direct competitor with Toyota by way of involvement with GM, the assault against Toyota represents one of the most public conflicts of interests the business world has experienced.
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