Toyota sees motivation as the certain route to quality: A Japanese firm is aiming to employ 3,000 staff producing 200,000 cars a year in Derbyshire. Jonathan Foster looks at its paternalistic style

TOYOTA is still hiring. Inside the new factory in the Midlands, inspired by mid-west mall architecture, they will need more production workers next month as output of the middle range Carina increases toward its annual target of 100,000 cars by 1994.

Beyond Toyota's arborial landscaping, suppliers of components and services are establishing roots in a regional automotive economy which could be worth pounds 100m a year if the plant achieves its long-term aim of 200,000 cars a year and 3,000 jobs. Production began yesterday on the site of a former private aerodrome at Burnaston, Derbyshire, between Derby and Burton on Trent.

Burnaston is a commuter factory. Of 1,100 people on the payroll, most of them represented by the engineering workers' union, about 90 per cent live within 35 miles of the plant, hardly any within a bicycle ride. The average employee is aged 30, male, and has no experience of working in automotive industries. He has been recruited by psychological tests of motivation, and trained in Britain, Japan or the US at a cost of pounds 7.2m to Toyota and nothing to Derbyshire County Council.

Only 78 of the workforce are Japanese. The manufacturing regime lays emphasis on teamwork and consensus, a pattern of working practices Toyota insists is its own, not part of any generic Japanese system.

Those already on the payroll claim there is an obsessive drive for - and pride in - quality. It was familiar to those who had worked in the past for Rolls- Royce in Derby, an employer which, until recently, affected a similar paternal style.

'There is a theory of a Japanese master plan, a global economic conspiracy. I do not subscribe to it at all,' Rosemary Yates, Japanese expert with the Sheffield-based commercial lawyers Dibb Lupton Broomhead, said.

'Instead, there are a lot of individuals under intense pressure to get the factory going, anxious about their market share, trying to get round protectionism.'

Ms Yates advised the county council when it persuaded Toyota in 1989 to choose Burnaston in preference to sites which carried Whitehall grants. Derbyshire had the right geography, the right greenfield site, and the right manners in dealing with Toyota - 'deference, but not subservience', Ms Yates said.

The decorous behaviour has been mutual. Toyota took care to re-locate badger setts, invited local people to tea in a marquee; Mr Suzuki, now back in Japan after supervising factory construction, will be warmly remembered in Hatton, Egginton, and Etwall.

Representatives of local villages, a ring of about a dozen affluent rural communities around the plant, formed a committee which liaised with Mr Suzuki.

'We've met every month or two months since 1989,' Margaret Roe, a local councillor who chaired the committee, said.

'There was never any great hostility. People were 50-50 between those who wanted it left as it was and those who realised the importance to the region of the jobs.'

Ms Yates added: 'Toyota have cared about getting on with the community. They do not have that role in Japan, and they were keen to do the right thing in Burnaston. In my experience, Japanese investment has been hugely to the benefit of the UK because of their higher profile, the peripheral benefits and because of the importance of quality. British companies have learned a lot.'

But Ms Yates thinks there may not be much more to learn. 'The big wave of Japanese investment has been and gone,' she said. German crisis, page 24

Commentary, page 25

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own