Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of the Toyota Motor Corp. and chairman of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), gave a video conference speech to members of the organization about the situation of Covid-19 crisis.
The power of industry
“The Japanese car industry employs about 5.5 million people, ten percent of the active population in the country – recalls Toyoda – also our sector has a strong impact on the entire economy, affecting productivity in general well beyond the simple value of the cars that come out of the factories, the effect on the economy in general is equal to 2.5. Ours is therefore an extremely important industry for Japan and the world.”
“For these reasons, we will make every effort to continue to stimulate the economy and, above all, we understand that to avoid a collapse of the entire system, it is first of all necessary to protect employment. It is essential to take adequate measures to prevent the virus from spreading, which would also lead to the collapse of the health system.”
Learning from the past
“Already during the crisis triggered by the financial meltdown due to the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers in 2008 and then also to that of the earthquake that devastated the north of our country in 2011 – continued Toyoda – we found that holding on and continuing to produce was a fundamental step. We were also criticized for this: we were told that thinking only about Japan was not wise in terms of the economic outlook. But after the disaster in Tohoku province, I was always convinced that our help had to go beyond simple immediate intervention. This is why we wanted a body shop in that area and a school where “monozukuri” is taught, the art of building things. If we look at that area today we see that the volumes of business have grown sixteen times in these nine years and that the 100 companies have become 170. This is because the knowledge and new technologies that have been taught have been brought to Tohoku and have found a way to take root and expand”.
The answer to Covid-19
Toyoda then outlines a scenario in which not everyone in the car industry will make it through this unprecedented crisis. “If the situation continues, we could face a future in which some of our friends and partners risk not being able to stay afloat. Before it is too late, we need to work in a timely manner to identify the crucial elements that the automotive industry should maintain even in the most difficult and unstable times. To do this we need to create a fund that will serve to invest in the future of our cars and defend people’s knowledge.”
A past that strengthens
The president of Toyota, in Japan much more than an automotive giant, resorts to history to try to give confidence to the whole country: “Now it is winter on the economy: but if you can survive, you will see spring. Automotive industry fate, will have an impact for many people. In the post-war era Toyota had lost people and factories, but it survived by choosing to produce everything that had to be produced, even pans and pots. I believe we have the tenacious DNA that it will help us survive, so we will have to do everything we can. When spring finally comes – that is, when the epidemic is over – it will be the moment when the automotive industry will be the best engine to revive the economy as soon as possible. We will do our best”.