Five Ways Toyota is Like Communist Russia

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For all of our boasting here at TundraHeadquarters about the fact that the Tundra is more ‘American’ than the Dodge Ram or the GM pickups, and that Toyota’s profits on the Tundra don’t really go overseas, the recent recall fiascos (officially known as “Recall-mageddon” – shout out to J.D.) illustrate that Toyota’s leadership is frighteningly lacking.

Similarities between Toyota leadership and Soviet Russia

The similarities between Toyota leadership and Soviet Russia - just for fun.

Here are some facts and figures about Toyota’s senior executives and management chain-of-command…and how eerily similar it is to old-time Soviet Russia:

1. Neither Toyota or the USSR had many “foreigners” on the “board of directors” or Politburo. Despite the fact that North America is Toyota’s largest market, there is not one North American currently on Toyota’s board of directors. In fact, in the entire history of the company, only one American has sat on Toyota’s board (Jim Press)…and he defected to Chrysler in 2007.

In the USSR, there were foreign born members of the Politburo, but they were all Soviets first. Their individual nationalities were a distant second to party loyalty.

2. Toyota’s regional divisions don’t have much authority, and neither did the USSR’s “member nations.” When I first heard that Toyota USA didn’t have the authority to announce a recall, my response was “Are you $#%@ kidding me?!” Evidently this has been fixed lately, but talk about a dumb way to run things…kind of like Soviet Russia.

Yakov Smirnoff joke about Soviet Union

Yakov's jokes could apply to Toyota's culture of secrecy and loyalty to the Toyoda family.

3. Toyota’s PR team and the Communist Party: Always protect the leader. Automotive News Asia editor James Treece, who has lived and worked in Japan for 22 years, believes that Toyota’s PR team was trying to protect Akio’s reputation ahead of the company’s reputation:

my suspicion during this crisis has been that the PR folks thought their job was to protect President Akio Toyoda’s reputation. If mud were to fly, don’t let any land on the bearer of the founder’s name

Sounds sort of like…communist Russia. Better to let the whole thing burn down than harm the reputation of our fearless leader.

Akio Toyoda fearless leader4. Both have a well-documented culture of secrecy. Arguably, Toyota’s biggest problem with the whole unintended acceleration issue is that they seem to have kept it a secret for a long time. Toyota is big on keeping secrets (all of corporate Japan, in fact), but secrets don’t make friends…which is why no one was friends with the People’s Commisariate for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the USSR’s secret police force.

5. Toyota and the USSR almost took over the world. In the year 2000, Toyota sold about 1.6 million vehicles, giving them about 11.5% of the U.S. market. By May 2008, Toyota was sitting on 18.4% of the U.S. market. That’s an increase of about 60% in less than 9 years. However, by late 2009 Toyota’s market share started to crumble like the Berlin wall. Today, it’s estimated that Toyota will close out 2010 with less market share than Ford, not to mention GM.

Toyota Falling Like the Berlin Wall

Toyota's market share is crumbling like the USSR's Berlin wall.

OK – Truth Time

This post is meant to be a bit of a joke. While Toyota’s corporate culture definitely needs an overall, no one should see Toyota’s recent struggles as evidence of their inevitable collapse. Once this news if off the front page, Toyota will lick their wounds, learn from their mistakes, and focus even more on building great products.

Hopefully, during that process, they’ll give Toyota USA more autonomy, recognize that secrecy isn’t a core business value, and start putting some freaking North Americans in charge at Toyota headquarters in Japan.

In the meantime, we’ll try and laugh about the screwed up management at Toyota. Happy Friday.

Filed Under: Auto News

RSSComments (15)

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  1. BobG says:

    Comrade, you making joke, yes. We be keeping eye on you. 🙂

  2. Jason says:

    Da – is good or no?

  3. Jeremy says:

    Тойота ничего как коммунистическое Россия, или оно?

  4. Michael says:

    There really should be a font for sarcasm …

  5. Jason says:

    LOL – Sarcastis, Serif

  6. danny says:

    i should assume the congressional hearing was a throwback to the cold war rhetoric? where’s Ronnie Regan chanting “tear down the wall”, ooops that germany.
    Maybe it’s a conspiracy to defeat democracy with communism instead of socialism (sorry, another shot at the dem’s)
    “resistance is futile….”
    as for secrecy, doesn’t all corporations have secrets, and some dirtier than others. “Transparency” is the new catch phrase for 2009-2010 anywho. Personally, i want to know what’s at Area-51. hahahaha.
    Excellent my comrade, everybody love Smirnoff.

  7. Jason says:

    danny – Thanks. This was out of left field…but that photo of the politburo and the Toyoda testimony was too good to pass up!

  8. J. D. says:

    I love bable fish. I said: Toyota isn’t like Communist Russia, or is it?

    The Berlin wall was a symbol of Russian Power over Europe. That is why the Great Ronald Reagan ask Mikial to Tear down the wall.

  9. J. D. says:

    I don’t need Bread, Send the Vodka!

  10. danny says:

    send Stoli’s vodka! Smirnoff taste like gasoline.
    (i am aware of the symbolism of the berlin wall, ironically, the 13 states created by the fall of the ussr is much more dangerous than the ussr as a union. another ironny is ussr stand for “Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics”, not communist, but close enough)
    peace – мир
    тундра навсегда
    tougen itsumademo

  11. danny says:

    it is funny tho. Good job. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then how can we laugh at others.

  12. blaine says:

    Do or did russians shed tears answering to other goverments?

  13. Jeremy says:

    I agree…the “popcorn” states are dangerous if the leadership isn’t noble.

    Also I find it funny that many peole state that the USA is a democracy and the USSR was a communist state. USA is a Republic and the USSR was Socialistic.

  14. Jason says:

    JD – I’ll make a note.

    Danny – Thanks.

    Blaine – If the did, it wasn’t in public.

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