On April 6, 2009, the Center on Japanese Economy and Business organized the symposium "Two Behemoths in a Troubled Industry: Toyota and GM." The panel featured Steven Sturm, group vice president of Americas Strategic Research and Planning and Corporate Communications at Toyota Motor North America, and William Holstein, author of Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon, with Professor Hugh Patrick, director of the Center on Japanese Economy and Business as commentator. David Weinstein, Carl Sumner Shoup Professor of the Japanese Economy at Columbia University, served as moderator of the symposium which was co-sponsored by Columbia Business School's Asian Business Association, General Management Association, and Japan Business Association. The panelists discussed the strategic positioning of Toyota and GM in the face of the current economic crisis, how they got there, and where they are going.
As William Holstein affirmed, the competition between Toyota and General Motors ("GM") represents one of history's greatest industrial rivalries. "These two companies represent more than just companies, they represent the soul of their respective countries..." It began in 1957, when Toyota attempted to penetrate the U.S. market with its first car. Subsequently, it was literally laughed out of the market, with its automobiles mocked as "Toyota pets." By contrast, GM was riding high, capturing over 50% share of the US market by the early 1960s. The fear for GM, as Hugh Patrick points out, was not the threat of competition but rather the threat of break-up via antitrust regulations.