The 1968 Corolla: A Story About How Innovation and Process Lead to Success

In 1968, Toyota introduced the Corolla to Canada. It had a tiny 60-hp, 1.1L engine to move its 1500 pounds. You had your choice of a four-speed manual transmission or a two-speed automatic. Performance? 0-100 km/h in 17 seconds, the quarter-mile in 20 seconds, and a top speed of 140 km/h. Not to mention, it was funny looking.

The American car companies didn’t think the Corolla was much of a threat to their business. But since 1968, over one million Corollas have been sold in Canada (39 million worldwide), and Toyota is the largest car company in the world.

How? Many books have been written about Toyota’s success. A handful of ideas surface again and again: Constant evolution. Incredible attention to detail. Becoming obsessed with innovation and waste reduction. Allowing employees to speak up. Thinking long-term. Keeping at it.

Nowhere in Toyota’s success do they talk about powerful V6 engines or six-speed automatic transmissions. Nobody said the answer is a hybrid car, or a crossover, or a luxury sedan. The secret isn’t the product. One look at a 1968 Corolla will tell you that.

Work on the process, and great product follows, as does success.

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