Excerpt from World Inc.
Toyota and the Search for the Superior Car
Leading the charge on Social Response capitalism requires a new brand of leader, one who recognizes the future in a world that is swift and severe. A leader of the magnitude and caliber of a Lincoln, of the articulate power of a Churchill or Shakespeare, is not required. Instead, this job calls for someone who can bring passion and focus to superior products in this new, more severe, and rapidly changing world. The best way to examine what it means to build this type of leadership is to look at a company from the old economy that has already taken on this charge, like Toyota.
The automobile is the ultimate example of a twentieth-century product. Ever since Henry Ford introduced the Model T, Americans have been infatuated with the grace, force, speed, agility, and splendor of these products. More than simply providing transportation, the automobile offers freedom, mobility, convenience, power, status, and comfort. The automobile industry is the world's largest manufacturing enterprise. Each year it produces more than forty-four million cars and trucks, a figure larger than the population of most countries. While part of this is due to the delight of owning a personal vehicle, a much larger part is due to the built-in need for cars that has been systemically decreed since World War II by leaders of all nations in cooperation with the petrochemical, development, and tourism industries. In industrialized nations, the automobile plays a central role in the daily lives of the population.
Yet automobiles are also a primary contributor to environmental deterioration. Daily, they add to losses in the quality of our air and water. Consider that there are seven hundred million vehicles in operation worldwide, with 150,000 more added every day. In America alone, cars and trucks produce roughly one-third of the nation's smog, and Californians alone are estimated to lose more than 400,000 hours each workday due to traffic congestion. The problems that the overuse of cars poses — or, more specifically, the overuse of the wrong kind and size of car — go well beyond environmental deterioration and directly affect our quality of life, the time we have to both work and relax, and our health and enjoyment of life....
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