A Toyota contingent agreed to look at Peyton's old forging plant, a dull brown brick building sitting precariously close to the runways of the Louisville airport.
In appearance, it was the opposite of a Toyota work environment. The plant was dark and rundown, and its aisles and work areas were unkempt and stained by decades of metalworking. The Toyota representatives were not encouraging.
"They didn't believe we could do what we said we could do," Peyton says. "Hell, we looked like something out of the 1950s — I knew that. I don't think they were used to seeing plants as utilitarian as ours.
"But I understood what they wanted. All these American companies were running around yelling about how you couldn't get any business from the Japanese. But Toyota had a way of doing business, and all they wanted was a supplier who would do things their way. And we were prepared to do that."
Even without a contract, Peyton and his engineers decided to travel to Japan to meet with executives from Aishi Steel Corp., Toyota's longtime Japanese supplier of crankshafts. Peyton thought it would convince Toyota of his seriousness if Louisville Forge could enter into a joint venture with Aishi.
Aishi, which was not prepared to invest in the United States, agreed only to a technology venture with Peyton. Aishi would provide the old U.S. forge with direction on metals and processes — but only if Peyton first won the Toyota business. No Toyota business, no venture.
The conditional agreement was enough to sway Toyota into making Louisville Forge its sole U.S. supplier of crankshafts. Peyton adopted a few of Toyota's production practices over time. But he never carried out the Toyota Production System, and Toyota never asked him to.