Mar
26
2010

The Toyota Debacle: How to move on


It was a shocking state of affairs  when Toyota announced that it was recalling millions of cars due to a very glaring “uncontrollable acceleration” problem.  And even though recalls normally happen for almost any car manufacturer for all sorts of reasons, this particular recall proved devastating for Toyota as a company, making them lose not just billions of dollars, but customer trust and satisfaction.

So the question is, can Toyota recover from this fiasco?

Toyota Motor CorporationThese kinds of recalls are nothing new.  The Ford Explorer had a recall ten years ago because of a “tire blowout” controversy that involved Firestone tires.  During that time, the Ford Explorer was THE most popular SUV in the market, and they took a massive hit on marketing and customer satisfaction based on their tire problems. But they have since recovered from it, and the Ford Motor Company still exists today.  But I guess this pales in comparison to the massive appeal of Toyota as a company, and being recognized as the most reliable car maker in the world.  Such a massive recall on their bestselling cars can surely spell doom on paper.

Many people have attributed Toyota’s current woes to their all-too-rapid globalization and complacent quality control.  A car company with the size and reputation of Toyota can be susceptible to such oversights, and many think it was just a ticking time bomb, waiting for the most inopportune time to explode.

And explode it did, to the tune of billions of dollars and the loss of critical reputation that it has built for decades.  Doom-and-gloomers have marked it the end of the Japanese car maker’s dynasty, and even the most devout optimist sees problems down the road for Toyota.  But is it really over for Toyota?  Is it over for the car company that has gained the reputation of being the best built cars in the world, with an old slogan even saying “I love what you do for me”?

And to pour more gasoline in the fire, some people have even entrusted upon themselves to take advantage of Toyota’s woes.  Even though Camrys and Corollas were the hardest hit by the recalls, we have people claiming that “insert-Toyota-model-here” is also experiencing problems.  But it’s just human nature.  Even some of the most common reasons for accidents, driver error, are being overlooked because people now have an alibi, a reliable scapegoat as to why they are getting into accidents while in their Toyota-made cars.  I’m not saying that Toyota bears no fault, I’m just saying that when the building is burning, expect the looters to congregate and converge in full force…

Now, I have always been a cynic, but I am thinking that it’s not all as bad as the doom-sayers tell it to be.  Granted, some of the best lessons are learned the hard way, and Toyota is learning it now in the hardest and costliest way possible.  Aside from the mandatory head-rolling that should’ve taken place, Toyota has to re-study its business philosophy.  Being an 800-pound gorilla means you have to be careful where you walk, because you have a lot more people to step on.  A little soul-searching can do a lot of good, and remembering how they got there can do wonders on where they need to go.

It is a known fact that, no matter how good you do, or how reliable you are, or how much you have brought happiness to everyone, one or two mistakes down the road can wipe out all the good will you have earned and strove for.  It is time to lick the corporate wounds, and limp along to the road of recovery.  It may take a long time, but hey, Toyota didn’t become the best car manufacturer in the world overnight.

Toyota.  Moving ForwardToyota is already trying to regain their customers’ good will by rolling out financial incentives.  They have been giving out faux apologies in their recent commercials and thanking their customers for sticking by them.  But this is just the start.  They need to do more.  And they can start by making sure that every car they make from now on is a masterpiece, from braces and bolts to plugs and pistons.  They should go back to the Toyota Way, specifically under the headings of “Respect for People” and “Continuous Improvement.”   It’s a long, hard climb back to the top, but Toyota cannot do it by dwelling on their mistakes.

And most of all, Toyota should follow its own, timeless slogan.  Moving forward.


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