Blog: Dave LeggettToyota’s Turkish delight

Dave Leggett | 21 April 2004

That Toyota Corolla Verso start of production ceremony duly took place yesterday (I travelled back earlier today). As well as people with direct responsibility for the TMMT (that’s Toyota Motor Manufacturing Turkey – Toyota seems to love acronyms) plant and European operations, Toyota wheeled out some big guns from Japan including Shoichiro Toyoda (honorary chairman, TMC – that’s Toyota Motor Corporation) and Tokuichi Uranishi (Senior Managing Director, TMC).

The press conference itself saw a number of presentations – which were perfectly fine for the occasion if a tad predictable (but that’s what these occasions call for, so there’s nothing wrong in that). The Turkish media were out in force and the cameramen don’t mess around. The scrum when the Turkish prime minister entered the ceremony hall was quite something – cameramen jostling with security people. Mr Erdogan was pretty passionate though; charismatic and rousing, even in translation.

He was also pretty effusive in his gratitude to Toyota for providing much-needed employment (around 3,000 jobs directly at the plant, and I’d guess there must be at least twice that number of indirect jobs created in Turkey) and it became obvious through the day that Toyota is Turkey’s major Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) success story right now. Which begs the question, what is putting other potential investors off?

A question to that effect was directed at Toyota’s representatives earlier in the day in a Q & A session and after conferring for some time, the Toyota panel’s response was something of a classic, in terms of playing with a straight and diplomatic bat: ‘Well, we invest considerable resources in Turkey and…. we really do not know why others do not do the same!’ There was a sympathetic ripple of laughter in the audience.

And just how internationally competitive is Toyota’s Turkish workforce? Well in simple cost terms, the figure of just €300 per month was given as a minimum wage at the plant. That's pretty competitive (cheap) in anyone's language. I'd also imagine that Toyota built the facility cheaply too. Toyota also maintained that the traditional benefits of the Toyota Production System (TPS) were much in evidence at TMMT – quality as good as in Japan, no question. And Turkish content, by value, in the vehicles produced? It was claimed that it is 50%. That leaves 44% as Europe and just 6% being Japanese. I was a little surprised that the Turkish content figure was quite that high.

And TMMT production is put at 520 vehicles per day on a two-shift basis.

Anyway, I’ve a stack of material, notes and photos to go through – a consolidated feature on Toyota’s Turkish operation is planned. Included with this blog posting are a few shots I took. One is a ‘C’ hanger, on the assembly line, which enables workers to move in and around the bodies with ease (be gone back-ache!). There is also one of the scramble in TMMT grounds when the Turkish PM took a Corolla Verso on a quick ‘test drive’ (a knock-down wasn’t exactly a remote possibility). And finally, the view from a restaurant worth knowing about if you’re ever in Istanbul. Toyota Europe (or TME, Toyota Motor Europe, to be exact) took us for dinner there last night. 'Ulus 29' looks out over the Bosphorus from a commanding position and the design of the restaurant makes the most of that. Food and service was good too. This is David Bailey, for just-auto, signing off.

Toyota officially launches Corolla Verso production


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