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Hasegawa, Yozo
L'auto pulita. La sfida tra Honda Toyota e le big mondiali dell'auto
BookID 155506729
ISBN 9788895399171
(see LibraryThing.com card)
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Description (from Amazon)As American automakers lose market share, Honda and Toyota are soaring on the backs of their high-quality low-emissions vehicles.

The increasing trend toward clean car technology means those companies that can build the best low-emission car will have the best chance of long-term success and survival.

Clean Car Wars presents a revealing look at the Japanese auto industry and how its two biggest automakers are battling each other, and the world, for supremacy of this vital emerging market.
My review: 4/5This is actually a "dual" book review, covering in part both this book and Mitchell's "Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century".

Why? Because while Mitchell (2010) focuses on the technical issue, economic analysis, and physical infrastructure to prepare the transition to a new kind of mobility, Hasegawa (2008, but I read the 2010 Italian edition) is more focused on the human side.

And, incidentally, both books actually hint here and there about the long history of electric cars and what made it not possible to have them before.

Therefore, I suggest to do as I did- preview both, and then read both but alternating content, as Mitchell's first part can be a good background on the potential of the future, while Hasegawa's book, after the Toyota-Honda "arms race" for hybrid and electrical, digs more deeply into the historical attempts- and becomes a useful introduction to contextualize the remaining parts of Mitchell's book (which, beside being technical, discuss also the economic side- something that is more easily understood if you know a bit about past attempts)

And now, the review of Hasegawa's book.

The title is partially misleading- catchy and useful to sell more copies, but able to steer away those who should, actually, read the book.

What is the real value of this short book?

Yes, interesting the "duel", less interesting the "balancing act" of presenting what American and European producer are doing.

More interesting instead is the "how" the Toyota and Honda product were developed, and the historical outline on how engines developed, and why the early XX century electrical cars did not survive the market.

Why? Because we live in highly technical times, where often we think that more investment is needed to achieve what, in reality, requires a better assembly of what is already there.

And therefore we could learn few lessons from the early years of cars- Ford Model T was an assembly car, wasn't it?

As outlined within the book, car makers often developed components and then outsourced the supply of such components.

And, as with any outsourcing, the risk is that sometimes you lose the knowledge needed to evolve, and become dependent on your own suppliers that actually you (and others in your industry, in the name of sharing costs) created.

It is a balance- and implies keeping always a clear view of what is the knowledge that should be managed by consortia, and not simply outsourced, if the aim is to keep innovating.

On that side, it is interesting to read the efforts of American car makers to kick-start their first electric cars experiences by licensing what had been produced for Japanese car makers.

Back to the "how", I know that my perspective is twisted, but the first chapters on Toyota and Honda are really interesting from an organizational development perspective on innovation management and the balance between purpose, means, leadership.

It reminds me of a case in the software industry in the late 1980s: a prospect asked by when something might be ready- the leading person on the supplier side went across the hotel hall to where the top R&D guys were seating, and asked them- their reply was February (I can hear quite well, but others, including the prospect, too).

Then we were given the answer... April.

In the XXI century, not just millennials are used to a somewhat shorter release cycle, i.e. to have "buggy but fixable products" released earlier- if I am not wrong, that was one of the innovative characteristics of Tesla (see https://www.tesla.com/support/software-updates), dowloadable software updates (since the late XX century, cars are computers-on-wheels).

Therefore, it is interesting to read also from an engineering and manufacturing perspective the story of the Prius: software development and on-board orchestration of resources require something more advanced than the traditional "tolerances" approach, and imply that there are additional benefits in creating more standardized components that are then "blended" in a unique way.

Consider for example insurance: if "clean auto" and hybrids were to be subject to incentives, it might be expected that the "blackbox" that currently insurance companies offer to install in exchange of a reduced insurance rate might need to be connected to more subsystems.

Now that vehicles are released with sensors and Wi-Fi, it is to be expected that eventually pollution and traffic congestion regulations will require to share those data.

Furthermore, in the future an extension of GDPR might extend "data portability" to also vehicles, e.g. to enable customers to benefit by better insurance rates by providing the data on how they used their own previous car.

This book is not technical at all (well, here and there having read something like Womack's or Mitchell's book would be useful), but actually, while you can read it as a novel, here and there the more business or technical orchestration oriented will find some interesting food for thought.

Hence, my 4* for this book.

[Review released on 2018-05-22]
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