It never ceases to amaze me how a company can rise to greatness by the vision and efforts of its founders only have it taken over by leaders that are only concerned in making money.
Now there is nothing wrong with making money, it can springboard you to the level and keep you dominant. But focusing only on the bottom line has it problems.
The company starts targeting only key markets casting off the less profitable but highly visible niche markets. Products become cold, bland, generic and soulless. While the appeal may be there for the mindless masses, the products quickly become dated, and stale. That great vision has lost out to those that simply want to make a buck.
However, every great once in a while a REAL leader takes the reins and refuses to accept the ugly cards dealt to him. He takes a hands on approach, an involvement in the key aspects of design and feel. This type of leader doesn't rely to data sheets or third party evaluations to tell him a car is a winner, he actually DRIVES the vehicles himself. He has the ability and courage to say "go back and do it again, and this time get it right" on the spot. There are no excuses for a generic product.
These leaders don't come along very often. GM isn't even in the hunt with the leadership it has (do the leaders even drive what they make). Ford has several key leaders that help keep Mr. Mulally pointed in the right direction. Chrysler's Marchionne certainly understands how important character and performance define a brand. His sales show that much.
However if you ask the Spies, who the leader is with the greatest untapped potential is, we all come to the same conclusion.
Toyota's Akido Toyoda.
Simply put, this man is single handily transforming the Toyota line up one car at a time into a force to be reckoned with. Look at the LF-A, GT-86, and the GS350. Each of these vehicles is a defining element in the master plan he is orchestrating. None of these will be massive sellers compared to a Corolla or Camry, however they perform a greater role.
They are the steps needed to redefine Toyota as a true global leader. Something they may have had in sales for quite some time, but lost a long time ago when it come to product appeal, quality and technology. The masses can now point to those benchmark vehicles and justify that Corolla purchase with confidence. After all isn’t it the same? Yes, to a degree, in the simplest terms.
So our question to you today is: Why aren’t there more true car guys leading these companies, and why is it so hard to do it well?