A lot of people believe economic growth comes at the expense of the environment. Quite the contrary, the economic growth imperative drives investment in technology, which continuously improves our products and protects the environment. Critics of free markets, both those who oppose markets for ideological reasons and those who simply do not comprehend how markets work, frequently assert that without the "benevolent" guiding hand of government, firms will maximize their profits at the expense of the public welfare. The fact is, markets are the best discoverers of the public interest, and it is through the operation of free markets that self-interested individuals and profit-maximizing firms serve the public interest.
In the spirit of full disclosure and truth in advertising, I serve on Toyota's Diversity Advisory Board. From that vantage point, I can attest that from its very inception, Toyota has understood that automobile consumers are not atomized individuals adrift on the world's highways but rather people who live within a complex social and political matrix that helps define their preferences. Therefore, while Toyota has a passion for technological excellence and economy in the motor vehicles it manufactures, it also has a profound understanding that a firm's ability to adapt to the cultures and customs of local markets ultimately determines its commercial success.
Toyota recognizes that a continuously growing auto market creates new challenges and opportunities for the auto industry. As Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda recently told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "Protecting the environment, improving safety and applying information technology are the three avenues of innovation we must travel in order to keep up with change and seize the opportunities it presents." Far from having to be bludgeoned into meeting these challenges by government, market forces are compelling a "fiercely competitive" (Okuda's words) Toyota to step up to them on its own.