Toyota details ‘global architecture’ growth initiative following recall scandal
By Alyssa Dalton
Mar. 27, 2015 – Toyota Motor Corp. says it is ready to ramp up its growth again, after an intentional soul-searching lull brought on by its massive global recall scandal that began in 2009.
The automaker outlined a new “architecture” centred on product development and manufacturing initiatives it hopes will be more fail-proof against quality problems, and allow it to keep growing in a “sustainable” way.
The recall fisaco affected more than 10 million vehicles around the world, mostly in the U.S., for a range of problems, including faulty brakes, sticky gas pedals and ill-fitting floor mats. Toyota also paid penalty fines in the U.S. and faced a number of lawsuits.
The first cars under the system, medium-sized front-wheel drive cars, will roll out later this year.
There was no single massive change being pushed at Toyota under the new program, but rather a combination of efforts to guard against quality flaws while maintaining an edge in product appeal, such as cool-looking exterior designs and safety technology, noted The Associated Press.
The plan that Mitsuhisa Kato, executive vice-president, kept calling “TNGA,” short for Toyota New Global Architecture, is similar to solutions being pursued by other global automakers, like Nissan and Volkswagen, which are grappling with balancing quality and growth.
Toyota is facing the challenges of addressing the complexity of developing cars while costs were ballooning for new needs such as compliance and safety features, and consumers weren’t willing to pay more, said Kurt Sanger, Deutsche Securities senior analyst, after hearing Kato’s presentation.
In a demonstration at one of its plants, Toyota showed a variety of technologies it had developed to grow ever leaner while making good cars, ranging from better synthetic leathers to shinier paint jobs.
Toyota said it had programmed robots to simulate the delicate hand movements of a craftsman to shape a car’s body. It also created its own way of screwing with lasers that shortened the welding of each screw from 2 seconds to 0.3 seconds. It shortened the line for stamping a metal part from 20 m (65 ft) to 2 m (6 ft) by making the machines smaller. It noted it will continue to focus on keeping costs down, while taking on the new steps such as using existing plants and facilities to carry out the changes.
Production lines will be simplified and slimmed down, downsizing facilities such as painting booths, and switching to equipment that sits on the plant floor, rather than suspended from above, as is standard today.
— With files from Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press