Toyota has always known the role young people play as "influencers" of their car-buying parents. Unlike Toyota, however, it might be argued that GM's management culture has been oblivious for decades. Tending to fixate on the next quarterly report has led to such self-destructive "reactive" behavior (pure desperation?) as instituting wild and crazy profit-giveaways in the form of "employee discounts" for non-employees, and not charging interest on car loans. Shouting from the roof tops for GM leadership to answer the doorbell to its ivory tower, GMnavy.go volunteers appealed to GM gatekeepers to have CEO Rick Wagoner contact them.
By 2005, GM had become the all-time leader in money lost by U.S. carmakers, that year losing five billion dollars, all the while ignoring pleas by GMnavy.go volunteers to review the GMnavy.go model. (REMEMBER, THIS WAS BEFORE THIS MATERIAL WAS MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE, A TIME WHEN THE TASK OF VOLUNTEERS WAS THEREFORE INFINITELY MORE DIFFICULT.) And what happened to Toyota during that landmark year in the industry? It posted a profit of $1.63 billion . . . in the third quarter alone.
● Similarly, as noted in Storyboard 32, a window into Chrysler's thinking includes "Kids don't buy cars, kids buy soft drinks" and the odd remark by the maker's management that the relative sales of competing car companies was not on Chrysler management's "radar screen."
● The third U.S. major, likewise on the brink, resorted to a troubling high-stakes, all-chips-on-the-table borrowing, mortgaging its dearest assets. Soon afterward, however, the equally disturbing plunge of the U.S. economy (and commercial lending) made Ford's move look . . . umm, brilliant!—much like using your credit card to fill your suitcase with lottery tickets just before bankruptcy . . . and winning.
It's never been a mystery to Toyota that young people in the U.S. are a powerful influence on their parents, and as such are a factor in automotive sales, profits, margins, opening a new factory, adding a third shift, gaining share . . . and raising prices.