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Toyota Is Not Ready for the Red, White, and Blue


As a European living in Japan, I have a slightly different perspective on your excellent analysis ("The Americanization of a Japanese icon," Cover Story, Apr. 15). Toyota Motor Co. is indeed a powerhouse and will set a new record for operating and net profit for 2001, partly thanks to the higher yen valuation of its dollar revenues, but not more so than Honda Motor Co., which is structurally more dependent on its U.S. income. In Europe, Toyota was a latecomer--after Nissan and Honda. Its European sales overtook Nissan's in 1998.

The successful gamble on the 1.3-liter French-made Yaris (Vitz in Japan), with its outstanding quality at a price where competition with European cars is the thickest, augurs well for the 1-liter car, where margins are paper-thin, to be made near Prague jointly between PSA Peugeot-Citro?n and Toyota. Peugeot-Citro?n will be in charge of purchasing and procurement, and Toyota will handle design and operation. The only other such joint venture was New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif., with General Motors Corp. back in 1984.

The 2002 worldwide debut of Toyota in Formula One and its new image as a French manufacturer are bound to win the hearts of European buyers, and Toyota executives are as professional as any in building their "good corporate citizen" image. So how about "Westernization" rather than "Americanization" of a Japanese icon?

Jean Barthelemy

Tokyo

It is incredible how you could simply ignore Latin America's--mainly Brazil's --car industry and big automobile market in your article on Toyota cars.

Paulo Serodio

S?o Paulo

Toyota Motor Corp. talks about its desire to become American but has not done so in reality. To become a truly American company, Toyota must stop selling its vehicles to regimes hostile to the U.S.: Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. CNN has footage of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives riding in the back of Toyota pickups. Toyota must follow the same rules imposed on other American corporations by the U.S. government.

Toyota also needs to start working with the United Auto Workers and must allow its plants to become unionized. And Toyota needs to move more of its vehicle production to the U.S., where its makes the most profit and is therefore obliged to create more jobs. Let's not allow Toyota to cherry-pick what it wants in the U.S.

Paul C. Lam

Plano, Tex. The Catholic Church lives from donations. The decline of giving is a certainty now in every country, and the trend is bound to continue until Catholics come to understand that the survival of their church is at stake ("The economic strain on the Church," Social Issues, Apr. 15).

The marriage of priests is not an easy point. In France, for instance, how could a married priest survive with an anemic salary? How could he devote his time to his flock when he knows that, in his private life, he cannot make ends meet? To help priests have a decent life, are Catholics ready to dip into their pockets and give 10 times as much? I do not think so.

The Catholic Church has to face, as you rightly say, a serious problem. And as a Catholic, I am very concerned. The Church should be managed like a company, with full financial transparency with an accordingly well-educated staff. The Church has faced many problems over 2,000 years and has never given up. However, that is not a reason to hide from the present situation and to find half-biblical reasons to do nothing. Time is running out.

Fran?ois Mariani

La Fert? Bernard, France

It saddens me that the media continue to overlook the pain of the victims, and instead focus on the disturbing cash-flow crisis the Catholic Church has created for itself. Frankly, I see no difference here between the Catholic Church and Enron Corp.

Both institutions chose to serve their own needs before the needs of their constituents, and this self-absorption is the root cause of their pain. I hope the Catholic Church goes bankrupt, and perhaps someday folks will look to their CEO in Rome as a leader who chose not to lead.

David G. Wiser

Cincinnati

As a Catholic father of four, I am angry. My faith is strong, but my trust is shattered. Am I reluctant to trust priests with my children? You bet. Am I suspicious that any contribution I might make might be (mis)directed to support their legal defense? Yes. Catholic leaders had better wake up. They have been out of touch with younger Catholics for years. I won't follow or support them blindly.

David Andreoni

Albuquerque

What kind of parent wouldn't pay legal fees or rehabilitation costs--even when burdensome--for a child in trouble with the law or addicted to drugs? The majority of Catholics will view their holy mother the Church the same way during this crisis.

John E. Fagan

Washington

As with many of my fellow parishioners, I recognize that the Church is not a democracy, but we will vote with our money and our feet. Martin Luther is beginning to look a whole lot better these days.

Thomas J. Raftery

Carlisle, Mass. You show readers how much the top U.S. executives earned in 2001 ("Executive pay," Special Report, Apr. 15), but I'm more interested in how much they made for their investors and the society (in "real" terms, not through accounting maneuvers). Some may view the highest-paid managers much like "the sexiest guys in Hollywood," but I believe these reports should remind CEOs and the like, who have profound influence to the world, that they are also charged with a moral responsibility. Those who showed up in the top spots on the list should seriously ask themselves whether they really deserve the big bucks and the glory.

Stanley Ngan

Hong Kong

You are wrong, as history will eventually show again and again, and Congress, Warren Buffett, and Alan Greenspan are right ("Don't blame the stock options," Editorials, Apr. 15). Give a CEO enough stock options and he prospers, regardless of what happens to his company. Look at Ford. Look at Enron. Just look at what is happening at Oracle Corp., or any other company relying on stock options.

Executives are looking out for No.1. The CEO cashes in his options and walks away with millions and doesn't have to sweat--no matter whether his company succeeds or goes belly-up. That is incentive?

Robert E. Schuhmann

LaGrange, Tex.


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