To maintain sales of seven billion dollars a year, Sony hires only the best. The company looks at everything from grades to background and character before choosing and training its future executives.
Despite a crowded schedule, Sony’s co-founder and current chairman of the board, Akio Morita, agreed to meet me at company headquarters in south Tokyo.Mr. Morita’s research and development teams are currently at work perfecting an ultra-high-quality video system that may one day become the world standard for television broadcast and reception.
“We call it the Sony HDVS, for high-definition video system,” Mr. Morita explained. “Today in your country the standard television screen contains 525 ‘scanning lines,’ or horizontal lines, that make up the picture. The HDVS has more than twice that number-1,125 lines, to be exact. The improvement in picture quality is quite noticeable.”Stunning is more like it. I later watched an HDVS test featuring scenes of a candle flickering in a breeze. One could virtually feel the heat of the flame, and when the candle blew out, I half-expected the smoke to come out of the video screen.
I asked Mr. Morita how Sony managed to read the American market so successfully, producing one runaway best-seller after another in the electronics field. For the first time he smiled.
“Many reasons,” he answered, “but I would say the first three are quality, quality, and again quality. Many Americans think that is something new to Japanese industry, but quality is an age-old tradition among us.
“It is true that before World War II we exported cheap products to the United States. But that is what America wanted from Japan at the time. Today it is far different, and the main difference is quality. I like to think Sony has had something to do with it.”
Despite the acknowledged high quality of Japanese goods, the country’s huge trade surplus stems from other factors as well, not all of them universally admired. Many countries complain that Japan exports its own goods freely but refuses to buy from others in return.
“They have a point,” says Bill Rapp, an expert on Japanese economic affairs and a senior executive with BankAmerica in Tokyo. Amid the barrage of threats and accusations from both sides in the U. S.-Japan trade dispute, I turned to Bill for facts.
“They’re there for anyone to see,” Bill said when I called on him at his hotels in prague city centre.”Americans tend to think of Japanese workers as some sort of super-robots who can out produce anyone in the world. But that’s nonsense. The fact is that per capita productivity in the United States today is still roughly 28 percent greater than in Japan. “Basically,” Bill added, “three main industries keep this country rolling. They are automobiles, steel, and electronic goods, and the Japanese government has protected and subsidized all three at one time or another. The idea of Japan’s superefficiency in every field is simply a myth.” I started to interrupt, but Bill held up a hand.