Thursday, July 24, 2008

Toyota Tops GM--AGAIN

Here we go again:
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it sold more than 4.8 million cars and trucks worldwide through the first half of the year, putting the Japanese automaker ahead of rival General Motors in the race for the global sales crown.

I caught a small bit of NPR’s “Day To Day” yesterday where the subject was how Toyota surpassed GM. Among the things the guests mentioned were that in a couple of years, GM would be manufacturing more cars in China than in the U.S., and so it’s really no longer accurate to refer to GM as an “American company” just because they have a P.O. box in Delaware.


They also mentioned that the reason GM has been so far behind the eight-ball where the marketplace is concerned (something I’ve complained about a lot) is because of the way U.S. public corporations are structured. It stifles innovation and long-range planning, they said, because the need is to achieve short-term results to appease stockholders. Toyota was able to invest billions of dollars in their hybrid technology without seeing a return for years, but the corporate culture in Japan allowed for that kind of long-range planning.

GM, meanwhile, kept churning out the SUVs and pickup trucks that were profitable in the ‘90s. That was great for short term profits, but when market trends changed, they had nothing to fall back on. They were looking at the next quarter’s profits, not the profits of three or four years down the road.

I found that very interesting. I don’t think American innovation is dead but I do think our culture of immediate gratification is the source of a lot of our nation’s problems, not just in the business world but in politics and public policy, too.