Toyota Unbound

Can the carmaker transform itself into a paragon of the New Economy?

It was a skunk-works project Toyota Motor Corp. executives found hardly worth mentioning. In 1996, in a small office in Toyota city, engineers Shigeki Tomoyama and Akio Toyoda, son of Honorary Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda, constructed a rudimentary computer network that enabled the company's dealers to display photos of used Toyota models in cyberspace. By hooking into the Net, Tomoyama and Toyoda dramatically increased the number of consumer eyeballs checking out those cars: In test markets the average stay of a used car on the lot dropped from 90 days to 10.

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