EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been changed to correct the name of Ross Perot's former company, Electronic Data Systems.
A hundred years ago, a wise man wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I guess the leaders of Toyota Motor Corp. never heard of philosopher and man of letters George Santayana. Or, if they had, they dismissed his words as so much Western falderal.
A shame. Attention to Santayana's warning might have helped the company avoid the trauma, travail and trouble in which it is now embroiled.
If Toyota had only glanced back a quarter century to review the sad, sad tale of General Motors, it would have learned what happens when a vehicle maker ignores quality.
Hark back to the mid-1980s. GM was riding high. It was the No. 1 vehicle maker by an ever-widening margin, and it was rolling in money -- so much so that it could pay Ross Perot $750 million to quit the GM board of directors. Perot thought GM was on the wrong track, and he voiced his opinion at every board meeting.
CEO Roger Smith wouldn't stand for that. He fussed and fumed and finally -- though it cost a bundle -- got rid of that mouthy Texan.
In the 1980s, Smith sought to diversify GM for the next century. He bought Hughes Aircraft, a prime defense contractor; and Electronic Data Systems, a data processing giant that Perot had founded and built.