Masaaki Furukawa

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President, Toyota Tsusho Corporation

Nationality: Japanese.

Career: Toyota Tsusho Corporation, dates unknown, various positions including president.

Address: 9-8, Meieki 4-chome, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-8575, Japan; http://www.toyotsu.co.jp.

■ Masaaki Furukawa became the president of Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC), a Japanese trading house that worked with other companies to find the right markets for their products, at a time when its most important customer was the Toyota Motor Corporation. In fact, Toyota Tsusho had been started in 1936 to provide consumer financing for Toyota cars, and Toyota remained one of its main money sources ever since; this was something that Furukawa wanted to change. Furukawa wanted to diversify TTC's business ventures. Toyota Tsusho's slogan was "to create new values, have the proper merchant spirit, and never give up," according to the Yomiuri Shimbun (August 22, 2001). Furukawa subscribed wholeheartedly to this slogan as he led his company to find more numerous and varied business partners.

EXPANDING THE CORPORATION

In 1998 the Toyota Tsusho Corporation launched two subsidiary companies in India to produce automobiles for the Toyota Motor Corporation, Japan's largest automaker. One of the new companies was Toyota Lakozy Auto Limited, set up in Mumbai to sell Toyota sport utility vehicles that had been locally produced. The other subsidiary was Steel and Logistics Center Limited, located in Bangalore. That same year, Furukawa led his company into a joint venture with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and the Sinopec Corporation's Beijing Uanshan Petrochemical Group. The venture was started to manufacture and market for use in the automotive industry polypropylene compounds, which are a high grade of plastic used for molded parts inside a car.

The Japanese economy was not doing well in 2001, while competition from overseas was proving to be a threat to some Japanese companies. Furukawa, however, was reported in the Yomiuri Shimbun as having said, "Toyota Tsusho Corp. has had a reputation as a company that taps a stone bridge to confirm safety but does not cross it. But from now on we will cross the bridge" (August 22, 2001).

Toyoto Tsusho strengthened its performance in the food and household goods sector by merging in April 2000 with a Thai company that produced rubber products, the Kasho Company. Furukawa then began to look for new enterprises that could become core businesses for TTC. He was interested in building a worldwide distribution network while keeping TTC's steel and automotive sales growing. He especially wanted the company to expand into the fields of information technology, environmental concerns, and consumer goods. Furukawa was specifically interested in the environment because ecological projects had gained worldwide attention—particularly the development of cleaner sources of fuel and energy. The Yomiuri Shimbun quoted Furukawa as having said, "I want to convert my company from one relying on Toyota Motor into one that leads the Toyota group" (August 22, 2001).

The U.S. company Environmental Systems Products Holdings (ESP) allied itself with Toyota Tsusho in 2002 to bring its patented technologies for vehicle safety and emissions testing to Japan. The venture also launched a new type of emissions testing technology known as loaded mode, which employed a dynamometer to simulate actual driving conditions and provide more accurate emissions test reports. Furukawa also worked with the Nichimen Corporation in 2002 to transfer Nichimen's Daihatsu Motor Company business to Toyota Tsusho in order to expand Daihatsu's production and sales. Toyota Tsusho in turn expected the transfer to widen the scope of its own automotive business.

JOINT VENTURES IN NEW PRODUCTS

Furukawa considered taking over another Japanese trading house, the Tomen Corporation, in 2003. TTC already owned about 12 percent of the firm, which was heavily in debt. Furukawa met with the head of Tomen, after which the two companies agreed to merge operations by 2005. At the same time Furukawa visited England as part of a tour of TTC's European holdings. In July 2003 TTC announced plans to enter into a venture agreement with Kobe Steel and Mitsui to develop aluminum suspension forgings in the United States. The joint venture was called Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, with TTC holding a 15-percent share. The new company was located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where factory construction began in August 2003. Production was scheduled to start in June 2005.

Furukawa also involved Toyota Tsusho in a joint venture with Toyota Industries and the DENSO Corporation to form a new company called ACTIS Manufacturing. The company was set up to remanufacture automotive air-conditioning compressors. ACTIS was located in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where its first plant was opened on February 3, 2003. The company was expected to strengthen TTC's competitiveness in the North American market.

Not content with building plants in the United States, Furukawa directed the construction of a new coil center in Apodaca, Mexico, in 2003 to process electrical sheet steel for such automotive parts as transformers and other appliances. That same year Furukawa invested in the ZEON Corporation's new Zeon Polymix Company in Guangzhou, China. The new company was set up to produce and sell carbon masterbatch (CMB), a raw material used to make rubber parts for automobiles.

In June 2003 Furukawa told TTC's investors that the company was in good standing, in spite of widespread fears of Asia's soft economy and the effects of the SARS epidemic, a potentially fatal respiratory disease first identified in China in February 2003. "In concrete terms, we are allocating resources to expansion of business domains, focusing first on our core Automotive business, followed by the strategic Ecology, Digital, and Life & Living businesses. We will also strengthen our ability to meet customer expectations by building on our Group's unique functions and capabilities." Furukawa had expressed his desire to push ahead and develop new business ventures for TTC; as of early 2004 he had succeeded in doing just that.

See also entries on Tomen Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

"Aichi Steel to Establish a Joint Venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Group in China," company press release, April 8, 2002, http://www.aichi-steel.co.jp/ENGLISH/TOPICS/topics159.htm .

"ESP and Toyota Tsusho Create Landmark Alliance to Establish Remote Sensing Vehicle Emissions Testing in Japan," Business Wire, April 3, 2002.

"Japan Comes to the Cotswolds," What's New in Industry , December 2003, p. 43.

McCulloch, Russ, "Toyota Tsusho Commissions Plant in Mexico to Handle Electrical Sheet," American Metal Market , May 22, 2003.

Mercer, Mike, "Environmental Systems Products Holdings Inc—International Report—Strategic Alliance with Toyota Tsusho Corp," Diesel Progress , North American Edition, May 2002.

"Mitsubishi, Toyota Tsusho, and BYPGC in JV for Automotive PP Compounds," Chemical Market Reporter.

"New President Challenge 2001/Realignment Necessary for Success Amid Shrinking Markets," Yomiuri Shimbun , August 22, 2001.

"North American Compressor Remanufacturer Actis Held Opening Ceremony," press release, February 4, 2003, http://www.toyota-industries.com/news/release/2003/actis/ .

"Presidential Visit to the Cotswolds," press release, December 2003, http://toyotaforkliftscouk.site.securepod.com/T_News2.asp?NewsID=948&CatID=3& .

"Toyota Tsusho Forms 2 Subsidiaries in India," Asian Economic News , July 5, 1999.

"Transfer of Nichimen's Business Related to Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. to Toyota Tsusho," press release, October 30, 2002, http://www.nichimen.co.jp/eng/news/2002/e0004.html .

Yomada, Michelle, "Toyoto Tsusho, Tomen May Merge Operations," Australasian Business Intelligence , January 28, 2003.

"ZEON Corporation Set to Establish a New Company for the Production and Sale of CMB (Carbon Masterbatch) in Guangzhou, China," press release, July 24, 2003, http://www.zeon.co.jp/press_e/030724.html .

—Catherine Victoria Donaldson

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