At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor, Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.”
Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled River Rouge production complex in Dearborn, Michigan. In the early days of Japan’s rise, Ford and other American auto companies had been famously helpful to information-gathering Japanese engineers. Know-how gleaned at the Rouge evidently proved particularly valuable.
Similar stories can be told about the complacency of other U.S. industries in the face of emerging Japanese competition. Where Japanese industrial “targeting” is concerned, America never seems to learn.