As the different players looked beyond their own departmental budgets, smart savings came into view. Toyota was making the bulk of its Corollas with sunroofs in Canada, while a plant in California was not outfitted to make them. Once logistics told manufacturing that it cost $300 to haul each sunroof-equipped vehicle from Canada to warm-weather states, executives revised the assembly process. “We changed an entire plant,” Esmond says. “It cost $600,000. But it will end up saving us millions.”

By the time the new Corolla and the Matrix made it to market in March 2002, Yoshida had kept the base models under $15,000, but he’d given up nothing in quality. Toyota did not make a single change to the car once the final design was set. That’s unheard of in an industry where design, engineering, and manufacturing often argue over problems up until the first car rolls off the assembly line.

Meanwhile, the Corolla is picking up speed in the marketplace. Combined sales of the Corolla and the Matrix topped 22,000 units in April — a 12 percent increase over last April. Yoshida would like to hit 300,000 units in the United States in 2003, up from 245,000 units in 2001.

Oobeya is all about the power of open minds. Explains Yoshida: “There are no taboos in Oobeya. Everyone in that room is an expert. They all have a part to play in building the car. We don’t con½ne ourselves to just one way of thinking our way out of a problem.”