Hall of Fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson used to say that every 24 hours, the world turns over on someone who was sitting on top of it. While it didn't happen quite that fast, political and economic forces turned Toyota Motor Corp.'s world upside down in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
And those tumultuous events triggered a reinvention of the company that set the stage for Toyota Motor North America to be more than a colonial outpost of the Japanese company.
Clouds began to form with the Plaza Accord of 1985. The agreement — reached by finance and treasury officials from around the world at New York's Plaza Hotel — was designed to weaken the dollar and thus make it possible for South American nations to repay their crushing dollar-denominated debt.
But weakening the dollar strengthened the yen. The exchange rate swooned from 120 yen to the dollar to 80. That created a phenomenon — endaka — that transformed the export business, which had become Toyota's lifeline, into a liability.
Then the Japanese real estate bubble burst in 1990, bringing down the stock market and the economy and pulverizing the domestic auto market. Jarred from a Roaring '20s mode of exuberant, excessive spending, Japanese shoppers suddenly were looking for greater value in their auto purchases.