"No more than one cup's worth of water can fit into a single cup. To hold more water, you need more cups."
released on January 2007
First president of Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd.
When Shotaro Kamiya became company president in 1935, it would have been nearly impossible to predict just how much impact his philosophies would have on Toyota, both in Japan and around the world.
From his opening of the very first Toyota dealership, Hinode Motors, later that year, it was clear Kamiya was a natural businessman. His principle of prioritizing the interests of customers and dealers was so successful that by 1946 there were already 46 Toyota dealers in operation across the country. Still today, Toyota lives by Kamiya's philosophy of "Customer first, dealer second, manufacturer third."
Those dealerships were supplemented by door-to-door salespeople, whose work epitomized Kamiya's "Customer First" philosophy. They educated households about motor cars, helping to bring motorization to the entire country.
This approach proved highly successful and continued for many years, but, as the demand for cars grew, Kamiya realized Toyota's dealership network needed to evolve. "No more than one cup's worth of water can fit into a single cup," he said at the time. "To hold more water, you need more cups."
A Toyopet showroom in 1957, shortly after the channel was first introduced
In the past, salespeople visiting offices and homes was quite an event for customers.
Although expansion was necessary in order to satisfy different types of customers, Kamiya knew he had to maintain Toyota's excellent standards of service. So instead of simply increasing the number of Toyota dealerships, he responded in revolutionary fashion. He created "more cups," namely the Toyopet, Corolla, Auto and Vista channels. The new channels categorized vehicles according to price range, making the purchase experience easier for the customer. The system was a resounding success and helped Toyota become the market leader for years to come.
Kamiya's principles served Toyota during tougher times as well. When the Japanese economic boom of the 1980s was followed by an enormous slump, customer values and preferences changed dramatically, and Toyota saw its market share drop from the high 40s to below 40%.
So it was back to basics: Toyota revamped its products and business style based on Kamiya's "Customer First" philosophy. A shining example is the new Netz channel. Its success in giving Toyota a more youthful image greatly contributed to Toyota's subsequent recovery. These days, Toyota's share is back up in the mid-40s.
More than 70 years since he first set foot in Toyota, Kamiya's words still ring true: "To offer true customer satisfaction, we must be flexible and respond to customers' changing needs."