Ford Seeks Toyotas Ideas

By: Jenny Mclane

Ford's chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, and Mark Fields, head of Ford's operations for the Americas, have flown to Tokyo to attend a courtesy call with Fujio Cho, the chairman of Toyota, and other top executives and senior officers of the automaker. According to experts, the courtesy call last Tuesday is resorted to by Ford to alleviate its ailing condition in the automotive realm.

Last year Bill Ford Jr., then Ford's chief executive, sounded more competitive when he said, "My goal is to fight Toyota and everybody else and come out on top," Mr. Ford told Time magazine, adding: "I'm not ceding anything to Toyota. They're an excellent company, and they're a terrific competitor, but I look forward to taking them on." However, this time Ford is singing a new tune to secure fresh ideas from Toyota, which is poised to become the largest automaker around the world.

Japanese media reported that the talk between the two auto giants was focused on the development of environmental-friendly technology that will be integrated in sophisticated like the hybrid-electric and hydrogen fuel systems. In addition, Ford is also reported to be seeking ideas from Toyota regarding improving manufacturing efficiency. The latter is famed for manufacturing high-quality and reliable .

Mulally plays an important part in building Ford's business relationship with Toyota. He is a student of the Toyota Production System, which puts emphasis on waste elimination and assembly line improvement. He used a form of it on assembly lines at the Boeing Company, where he ran the commercial airplanes division before joining Ford in September.

The recently conducted meeting follows the talks held last summer with General Motors, Renault of France and Nissan of Japan. General Motors is currently the biggest automaker. It is famed in the manufacture of cutting edge to be used in its lineup.

Ford and Toyota's bond has been long established. In the 1950s Ford allowed the managers from Toyota to study the operations at its giant Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan. It has helped developed Toyota Production System. In the 1980s, Ford has also helped Toyota to open its first plant in the United States. Nowadays, the situation is on the exact opposite, it is now Ford that seeks Toyota's assistance.

Chester Dawson, author of "Lexus: the Relentless Pursuit, said, "If it forges a relationship with Ford, Toyota is probably hoping it will be seen as a good-will move. Toyota is wary of inciting trade friction." However, James P. Womack, a co-author of "The Machine That Changed The World," which examined Japanese automakers' American plants, said, "Toyota has nothing to gain, either politically or in the market, by letting Ford fail fast."

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