When Yuji Yokoya, Toyota’s Chief Engineer, was given responsibility for the Siena minivan he took it seriously. Genchi Genbutsu is a central pillar of the Toyota Lean methodology - it means “Go and see for yourself” and thats exactly what Yuji did. He climbed into a Siena minivan and drove more than 53,000 miles all over North America to see what would make it better.
This extract from the Chicago Sun-Times explains his discoveries in more detail :
Crossing the Mississippi River, he noted that the Sienna’s crosswind stability needed improvement. He observed excessive steering drift while traversing gravel roads in Alaska, and the need fot a tighter turning radius along the crowded streets in Santa Fe. Driving through Glacier National Park, he decided the handling needed to be crisper. He also made an all-wheel-drive option a priority, along with more interior space and cargo flexibility.
Finally, he decided that the new Sienna would have to be a minivan that families, and especially kids, could live in for an extended time. Upgrading seat quality became a priority, along with ‘kid friendly’ features such as a roll down window for second-row passengers, an optional DVD entertainment center and a conversation mirror so parents could monitor what was going on in the back seat.
”The parents and grandparents may own the minivan,’ Yokoya said, ‘but it’s the kids who rule it. It’s the kids who occupy the rear two-thirds of the vehicle, and are the most appreciativeof their environment.’
The results were impressive, boosting teh Sienna’s market share dramatically. The new model’s sales were 60% higher than the last model.