It is an irony that Japan’s youth are no longer enamoured with cars. In the 1980s, Japan took superpower US by storm, with its superior automobiles and electronics.
It made deep inroads into the latter’s economy, throwing Detroit’s Big Three into a tizzy and prompting historian Paul Kennedy to write The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers about the demise of US hegemony.Japanese carmakers, though their unique techniques such as kaizen (small but constant improvements), a lean manufacturing system that includes a just-in-time production method (to eliminate muda, that is, waste/profligacy at the inventory level) and a collective and cooperative culture of management, produced world-renowned brands of the likes of Toyota and Honda. In the 1970s, due to the Arab oil crisis as well as environmental concerns, the US passed the Clean Air Act that mandated automobiles to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. While the Big Three protested, saying it was impossible to achieve this within the given deadline, Honda saw a golden opportunity in meeting the challenge and came up with Civic, which had a two-chamber oxygen-cum-gasoline combustion engine that reduced the use of gasoline and reduced emission. It may be time for the Asian tiger to resurrect its spirit of innovation and offer another trendsetting automobile product that will lure the country’s consumers again. C V Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
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