SAN FRANCISCO - Hideki Tojota, vice president and primary stockholder of Japan's top automobile manufacturer, committed Hari Kari Wednesday afternoon upon learning the predicted first operating loss in 70 years for the company was unavoidable.
Deeply shamed by the failure he perceived himself as bringing to his beloved company, Tojota plunged a wakizashi, or Japanese short sword, deep in his abdomen twice, leaving his entrails in his lap. He performed this act with great dignity and honor, remaining almost completely silent even as his bowels slipped from his abdominal cavity. His suffering was ended swiftly when his good friend and company president Watanabe cleaved Tojota's head from his shoulders with one clean blow of his katana, another Japanese sword.
Tojota was a controversial but charismatic and much admired figure, decisive and ambitious. He believed that American auto workers were lazy and undisciplined, and that his company's success depended upon its superior labor force. A strict disciplinarian, he increased worker productivity at the automobile manufacturer to astounding levels. Upon learning that, despite the tremendous efficiency he had brought to the company, it would nevertheless be faced with having to idle its production for nearly two weeks in February and March, Tojota was devastated. He saw no other way to save face than by ritual suicide.
Watanabe says he will miss his good friend for whom he will "always have the utmost respect," and pointed out that the great honor he brings the company through this act of great personal sacrifice will "elevate the company to even greater heights." Moreover, his company shares will be used to alleviate projected layoffs, pay cuts and new model delays that otherwise would have been necessary to cope with a slumping global market that has hammered the Japanese auto industry.
U.S. sales for the car manufacturer actually dropped 37% on the year, a higher percentage than either Ford's 32% slip or General Motor's 31% decline. As the worldwide recession continues to deepen, rumors that Watanabe himself and other top level executives may soon be joining Tojota in committing Hari Kari have begun to circulate.
With U.S. automakers teetering on the brink of collapse and their CEO's groveling at the feet of the federal government for bailout money, news of Hideki Tojota's great personal sacrifice makes one wonder what it might be like if G.M., Chrysler and Ford executives also possessed such high levels of dedication, integrity, and a sense of honor.