It was only a matter of time, but Toyota Motor claimed the crown as the world's top automaker this week, surpassing General Motors of Detroit in quarterly worldwide sales.
Toyota announced that its worldwide sales reached 2.35 million cars and trucks in the first quarter, compared to the 2.26 million vehicles GM earlier reported selling in the same period.
Although it is only for one quarter, Toyota's relentless climb to the top brings to an end a dominance of one of the world's most important industries that had lasted for more than seven decades. GM overtook Ford in sales in 1931, and with only a few blips has held that position ever since.
The news is yet another milestone for Toyota and its much-admired business strategies, founded on the Toyota Production System (TPS). In factories around the globe, Toyota consistently produces higher-quality cars, with fewer worker-hours, lower inventory and fewer defects, than its competitors. The key to that winning record is TPS, a set of principles, philosophies and business processes that enable the leanest manufacturing.
And behind TPS is information technology, supporting and enabling business processes that help Toyota eliminate waste and continually improve production.
In a cover story, Baseline examined Toyota's use of TPS throughout its operations and the vital role that information technology ultimately played in helping the Japanese automaker drive to the top. See "What's Driving Toyota?"