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Interview: Koji Sato, Toyota CEO

1 year ago

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Andrew English | Journalist


17 May 2023

Chief executives come and go in the motor making business. What did they used to say? You’ve got three years in the job: the first to observe and plan a vision; the second to hammer through those changes; the third to enjoy their fruits, by which time you should be looking both forward to your next job and behind you for the slim blade slipping between your shoulders.

And what vision should that be apart from making cars and money? General Motors used to have weekend-long ‘fireside events’, where The General’s directors drove cars from other divisions with varying amounts of expertise, and ate and drank with each other and a couple of handfuls of invited hacks. I remember such an event in the mid-1990s when GM chief exec John ‘Jack’ Smith defended the much-maligned Ford 2000 organisational change going through under the Blue Oval’s then chief exec Alex Trotman.

‘You’ve got to throw the whole deck in the air every now and again,’ said Smith, his gravelly voice making the ice chink in his whisky. ‘People make kingdoms for themselves, entire departments start to have no purpose and everybody is stealing the spoons; you have to change simply to stay focused and moving forward.’

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