The momentum of innovation in the auto industry has picked up a notch, as a resurgent Toyota allies with Tesla to re-open the NUMMI plant closed earlier this year to produce a mass market electric car.
Toyota got the ball rolling 10 years ago with the Prius, and still leads by a mile in the eco car market, but the competition is emerging. This alliance with Tesla in the plant where Toyota allied with GM for its first plant outside Japan, demonstrating comprehensively that the quality of Japanese cars was not a function of some cultural phenomena peculiar to Japan, but simply a function of good management (a lesson GM never really got) may be just as significant.
It is reassuring to those of us who have watched Toyota transform the manufacturing mentality of the world over the last 30 years with their development and wide sharing of TPS, that after the recent stumble over quality, a stumble some predicted as the Toyota juggernaught seemed to be taking over the auto world, that they have been able to embrace the alliance, and return to the basic values that made them great.
With luck, they will be as open about the engineering and operational evolution of the JV electric car, and the lessons they learn from the alliance with Tesla, as they have been in the past. If so we will all learn a whole lot more.