That's one of the messages in this brief interview that Guy Kawasaki conducted with Michael Raynor.
Question: What is the explanation for Toyota’s success?
Answer: A big part of it was being well-positioned for the oil crisis of the mid-1970s. Toyota was influenced by its origins in the Japanese market, where size and fuel economy mattered, and in the U.S., it was focusing on the second car market, where the need for low prices similarly rewarded smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. When the oil crisis hit, Toyota happened to have products that were much better suited to the suddenly-changed environment.
As Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favours the prepared mind,” so this bit of luck would have been useless to Toyota if it made inferior cars. But of course customers quickly noted Toyota’s vehicle quality. This reflected its tradition of manufacturing excellence, of defect and cost reduction and quality improvement, a system that is known today as the Toyota Production System, or TPS.
By the way, Toyota has been selling cars in the US since the mid-1950s. They’re #2 and threatening to become #1, but it took fifty years. GM overtook Ford as the #1 automaker in the early 1930s, less than twenty years after Alfred Sloan created GM. Toyota’s accomplishment is remarkable, but it took a long time.