When Jim Farley became the third big-name Toyota exec to jump ship in just a couple of months, there was a lot of buzz that something must be dreadfully wrong at Toyota.
After all, the theory goes, why would talented execs like Jim Press, Deborah Wahl Meyer and Farley all leave in an apparent hurry unless they knew that something was about to implode?
Actually, their departures are an indicator that things are going well at Toyota. It means that Toyota's employees are so talented that they have become high-profile targets for auto industry headhunters.
That's the way it used to be in Detroit.
Remember that most of the execs who helped launch the importers moved to the West Coast from the Midwest home of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. That was in the days when talented young engineers and other bright college grads flocked to Detroit looking to build their careers because the auto industry was the place to be. It was rewarding.
Back then, those who left to work for the importers either realized that they weren't on the short list for that next step up the ladder or they wanted the challenge and excitement of building an enterprise.
Ford in particular became a staging point for many young execs heading west because the company was more active and more successful in recruiting young talent. To a large extent, GM relied on General Motors Institute -- since spun off as the independent Kettering University -- as its officer candidate school.
Ford, without its own university, went farther afield.
For example, former Ford CEO Phil Caldwell once told me the company kept track of the career path of every Harvard MBA inside Ford. And there were quite a few.
These days, Detroit is not on the itinerary of every engineering, finance or marketing hotshot looking for a job. For the Detroit 3 to prosper in the next century, they'll need to adjust their corporate cultures to be more inclusive and more attractive.
But that's a column for another day.
In the meantime, you can see that after half a century in America, the tables have turned on Toyota.
Now, executives who want the challenge of building -- or rebuilding -- an enterprise are heading east.