NAGOYA, Japan -- At Toyota Motor Corp., the latest bywords are "speed" and "efficiency."
Introducing his new management team here on Monday, President Akio Toyoda said the world's biggest carmaker is poised to enter a new era of growth anchored by a sweeping management overhaul and a new product development strategy dubbed Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA.
The reorganization was unveiled in March but mostly took effect after last month's annual shareholders' meeting.
The six executive vice presidents flanking Toyoda at the event repeatedly hammered the theme of boosting efficiency, speeding reaction time and shortening the product cycle.
"For the four business units that we have reorganized into, the first role of these units is to make decisions in a speedy manner," said Satoshi Ozawa, who took over last month as executive vice president in charge of North America and other developed markets.
Making up lost ground
The focus on efficiency and speed evokes a sense of internal obsession with recouping three straight years lost to crises. Toyota was broadsided in 2009 by the global financial meltdown, then hit by the unintended acceleration recalls in 2010. Then in March 2011, the earthquake and tsunami -- followed by floods that fall in Thailand that crippled many Japanese suppliers -- slashed the company's worldwide production.
In 2009, the company was battling its first operating loss in seven decades. At that time, Toyoda introduced a largely carryover board, saying he was embarking on a voyage amid a storm through uncharted waters. Now that the company is comfortably back in the black, Toyoda has swept out his boardroom, leaving only three board members out of 16 who predate his ascent to power, and his message has changed.
"We are going on a new voyage on a new vessel to pursue an even better car," Toyoda, 57, said. "TNGA is going to be the navigational chart for this voyage."
Indeed, Toyota is back in growth mode. Its 2013 global sales forecast, including its Hino and Daihatsu units, is 9.96 million vehicles, which would put it close to being the first carmaker to break the 10 million milestone.
The Toyota New Global Architecture strategy -- spearheaded by Mitsuhisa Kato, executive vice president for global r&d, and Seiichi Sudo, his counterpart overseeing engine and drivetrain development -- will be the linchpin of the new push. Toyota has said the strategy will deliver its first vehicle in 2015.
The goal is to improve content and performance while reducing cost. Toyota aims to do that through greater communization of components and engineering. That should speed product development and free resources to focus on better products.
Sudo said his division, called the Unit Center, is working on a new architecture for small- and medium-sized segments and next-generation hybrid and diesel powertrain systems. It also is embarking on a fresh benchmarking blitz of competitors, he said. Again, speed is key.
"We are going to speedily implement development," Sudo said. "We will devise prototypes and evaluations over a very short period of time and thoroughly revisit the way we work."
Kato pledged that the drive for efficiency won't lapse into a blind pursuit of volume.
"Until now, there were phases in our history where we pursued sales volume and I think that was part of the reason for our quality issues," Kato said. "Through TNGA, product appeal should improve while costs decrease. That is what I mean by improving the efficiency of development."
Kato has said before that the goal behind TNGA is to boost product-development efficiency by 20 to 30 percent. That savings will be plowed back into new technologies, better manufacturing processes, slicker designs and more attention to detail and quality.
The modular development strategy is similar to that being undertaken by Volkswagen AG, Nissan Motor Co. and other big automakers. Toyota says it will be applied first to three front-wheel-drive vehicle platforms that account for about half its global production volume, but the company has not identified the three nameplates.