I'm not going to bother with who's at fault for all the problems facing Toyota today, not only in the United States but around the world. Obviously, this has been haunting Toyota for quite some time, and there are now enough folks fighting over who is responsible.
But what we also are seeing with the Toyota problems is another risk that seems to have been ignored during our rush to globalization.
Formerly, when there was a problem, whether it caused a recall or not, it was localized to an area or even a single model line from a manufacturer.
But today, everyone realizes cost savings from global platforms and the use of global suppliers. There are cost advantages from both -- until, that is, something goes wrong.
When that happens, the problem is multiplied by tens or hundreds, and the costs and the damage skyrocket. What once would have been a small, local problem is now a global problem with huge cost implications.
Globalization isn't going away. We're going to see more and more global platforms and single-source suppliers to save money. We are probably going to see more multicontinent defects or recalls in the future.
Another great risk -- even greater as the global concept expands -- is in shortening the testing cycle. In a rush to keep costs as low as possible, it is tempting to shorten the preproduction cycle to get products to market as soon as possible.
Years ago, one manufacturer used to say it let the warranty folks sort out the problems. No one has been able to do that for many decades.
With the increased use of computer controls for safety-related systems, it will probably become more important to increase testing time, not shorten it.
Although we have used computers for controls for quite some time, using a computer to control heating and air conditioning is quite different from using computers for acceleration and, say, cruise control. The computer, a godsend to the industry, may also become its biggest threat with more and more systems under computer control.
With bigness come larger risks. As long as those risks are known, they should be manageable.
Without an awareness of the risks, it will be a very dangerous global market.