Future of a single industry city : Toyota city

Before Toyota city’s industrial rise, the area was, at the beginning of the XXth century, a rural village called Koromo of whom the main activity was to produce silk.

In 1922, Sakichi Toyoda, inventor of automatic looms, set up Toyota textile industry. During the following years, silk industry loss ended with a main change in local economy.

At that time, Kiichiro Toyoda, Sakichi Toyoda’ son, decided to build a car factory where he could implement his father’s methods production. The car company Toyota was born.

First, outputs were mostly intended to military needs (trucks).

Japan’s defeat during the Second World War deeply changed Toyota’s production strategy making civil cars its main market. Then model efficiency brought prosperity to the firm for many decades.

At the local level, deep changes occured in Koromo village. Demography highly increased, people being attracted by job opportunities. Massive investments transformed the rural scenery of Koromo into a thriving industrial city.

Toyota’s influence on the urban development of the area forced local authorities to rename, in 1959, the town Toyota city.

Today, the city has  and Toyota keeps on running as a single-industry-city1 and making its model obvious.

The company is everywhere in inhabitants’ life.

With its seven car factories, Toyota is the main employer. It owns childcare centres, schools and hospitals. It takes over financial flows loaning money to its employees for real estate purchase. As it also owns lands, workers have no other possibility than buying houses on the company’s plot. Thus, money never leaves the japanese firm.

The 400 000 inhabitants only live and think Toyota in the way they behave, consum and learn.

Despite the population alienation, the model has barely been contested.

The crisis of 2008 had made things change. The large losses of the company required a lot of worker lay-offs leading Toyota city to a deep chaos. A third of the employees lost their job.

That global crisis weakened a production model said to be infallible so far and forced the community to put in doubt the single industry Toyota city operating.

Even if the car manufacturer got its leardership back on the global market in 2012 and reported good results, the 10 million of vehicles recalled in the world in 2010 damaged the group’s image.

Which consequences would a new crisis lead for the inhabitants’ future of Toyota city ?

The similarity with a former american metropolis could be a first element in the answer process.

Detroit in 2012 (photo by Jose Vergara)

Detroit in 2012 (photo by Jose Vergara)

Detroit, or Motortown, was smashed by the crisis of 2008 bankrupting General Motors and Chryslers. Without the restructuring plan of Obama administration in 2009 supporting General Motor Corps losses and ruined local communities, the city would have lost much more than half of its population.

Detroit quickly became a dead city with abondoned houses and damaged public spaces and buildings.

Nevertheless, a young creative and dynamic generation not linked anymore with the car industry gave to the former north american metropolis hope in future.

Initiatives as urban farms, start up of renewable energy companies and artists settlement make the local economy reborn in Motortown.

What’s about Toyota city ? Is the single industry city model still reliable ?

Toyota city hasn’t reached Detroit’ situation but remember that General Motors was the second world car manufacturer in 2007.

1   city where 25% of the working population is employed by the same factory or combinat.

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