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Toyota - resting on its innovation laurels?

Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw PHD - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It is good to see that Senator Carr describes the financial assistance given to struggling Toyota as a "co-investment" rather than a handout or bailout. However my question is 'What are they doing to protect that 'investment'? What steps is the company taking to ensure that this tax-payer funded assistance is being put to good use for a long term solution. If we have simply bought 350 jobs, that is a great short term solution (especially for the 350 people whose jobs were saved) but it is not a sustainable option because inevitably the company will need another injection again down the track.

Supporting their R and D is only part of the solution. What evidence is there that Toyota is focussing on innovating their business model to become self reliant and viable long term. Simply waiting till the Australian dollar looses strength is not a strategic and intelligent response to their challenges.

The pressure is on for all organisations, large and small alike, from start-ups to fortune 500s, to find innovative ways of doing business, staying competitive and creating opportunities. Only adaptable entities will survive. What worked yesterday won't necessarily work tomorrow. Similarly the markets that were there yesterday won't necessarily be there tomorrow. And a great track record in the past isn't a guarantee of future success. That's the world we live in.

Accusing Toyota of a lack of innovation is certainly killing the proverbial sacred cow. After all it is part of their core branding - a quality on which they pride themselves. But fact is, they are in trouble. Sure there are a number of beyond- their-control factors like the high Aussie dollar but to quote Graeme Spurling, former head of Mitsubishi Australia, "Some radical thinking is needed". Perhaps Toyota should apply some of that famous design innovation to their business model.

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