Toyota Motor Corp. has done something many companies—automotive or otherwise—would not do, and this is direct attention to an event that the organization would rather forget. In February 24, 2010, Toyota President Akio Toyoda was grilled by a U.S. congressional panel over the unintended-acceleration recall crisis. Fast forward five years later, the Japanese automaker chose the date to mark the production of its car of the future, the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle.
The move to associate a low point in Toyota’s history to a new and exciting one is unusual, but the auto giant has a reason for doing it. According to Toyoda, the date represents an opportunity to look back at the recall crisis and use the lessons learned from it to move forward and do better.
Toyota made sure that its employees remember what happened half a decade ago. Bloomberg reported that the February edition of the internal company publication also puts the focus on the crisis anniversary. By drawing attention to the recall crisis, Toyota allows workers to remember to prioritize quality and to put the customer first.
Toyota also chose the crisis anniversary for the rollout of the Mirai for another reason. Toyoda said the date would mark the automaker’s rebirth, its first step towards the future with the aforementioned innovative vehicle.
Interestingly, the world’s largest automaker is choosing a low-tech way of building its high-tech car. The Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, is built with a production process that is far from futuristic, or even advanced. Toyota has decided to go back to basics, opting for manual production to ensure the vehicle’s quality. This is the company’s way of making sure that the quality issues that plagued them in the past will not follow them into the future.
Toyota is building the Mirai at its Motomachi plant, the same facility where it manufactured the Lexus LFA supercar. Mitsuyuki Suenaga, the plant’s assistant manager, said that it is a low productivity factory. Unlike other plants, it is without huge assembly lines that churn out many vehicles per day. It does not even have conveyor belts that transport the vehicles being assembled.
The Motomachi plant only completes three Mirai vehicles a day, with a team of 13 building each one. According to Suenaga, some of the workers building the Mirai were also involved in the assembly of the Lexus LFA. The Wall Street Journal reported that all 13 workers were chosen based on experience and potential.
Photo credit: newsroom.toyota.co.jp/en/