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November 7, 2012

Toyotas long path to the top

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

I thought that you might be interested in a bit of little-known history that I had a front row seat for. Your article in the Oct. 30 Transcript on Toyota being rated highest in quality triggered some long dormant memories.

Prior to WWII, goods imported from Japan were mostly cheap, celluloid “stuff.” It came as a great psychological surprise to the people in this country when Japan was able to mount such a successful attack on the U.S. in 1941.

When Japan surrendered at the end of WWII, President Truman appointed General McArthur to oversee their rehabilitation. McArthur brought in American men and technology to help. One of those men was William Demming, a statistical quality control guru.

Demming had tried to convince American auto manufacturers to use statistical quality control, to no avail. He jumped at the chance to go to Japan and put his proposals to work. He was immediately introduced to the Japan auto industry to help get them back on their feet.

Well, he did. By the 1950s, the Japan auto industry was using SQC across the board. And Japan’s second invasion started. The cars that they exported were more reliable and endurable than the Western automakers.

By the time our auto makers woke up, the invasion was complete. Japan’s reputation for shoddy goods had vanished and is now known for quality — high quality.

I had the opportunity to attend several of his seminars and put his practices to use.  They successfully increased quality.

Before the 1950s, Western-made autos were close to junk. They rarely lasted more than 40,000 to 50,000 miles before major repairs were necessary. I became a pretty good mechanic driving those cars. Today, most cars last a hundred thousand miles without major repairs. My son’s minivan has more than 200,000 miles and is a bit tattered but still running.

JOHN BAUGHER

Norman

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