Toyota in France - Culture Clash

Published: 2021-06-29 07:04:11
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Toyota in France: Culture Clash?
Hiroaki Watanabe, the Japanese general manager of the first major Toyota plant in Valenciennes, France (and in continental Europe), has a lot at stake. He is in charge of a modern and efficient $570 million Toyota Motor factory designed to manufacture the Yaris, a subcompact car. The plant was designed to employ 2,000 workers. Currently, there are about 200 Japanese managers and 150 Japanese trainers on staff. The remaining employees are mostly French. Culturally speaking, there were many potential areas of conflict between the Japanese and French customs. For example, the plant holds calisthenics at 8:00 A.M. every morning to avoid starting off the day "cold" and being more prone to injuries. This is a common Japanese practice that is not frequently done in France. Also, the plant does not serve wine at lunch, a common practice in other French organizations. As is common in other Japanese firms, blue and gray windbreaker jackets are made available with the word "Toyota" on the back and the employee's name on the front.
To help bridge these and other potential cultural gaps, the leadership of the venture needs to understand the potential cultural clashes that these issues can cause. How did Mr. Watanabe prepare himself for this high-profile assignment? Although fluent in English, he decided that he would learn French and as much about French culture as possible. After all, the vast majority of workers at the plant would be from northern France. To prepare himself, he traveled to France as a tourist and visited the Toyota plant in Canada. He conducted interviews in French, with assistance of an interpreter, in order to improve his language skills.

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