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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Toyota Pulls a Detroit of Yesteryear

Once upon a time not so long ago there was a scary monster that ruled the land by seeding the world with its demonic like fire breathing spawn (cars). They used to call it the Detroit Big Three. Its children would roam the world devouring liquids (GM SUV) at every gas station, rusting (Chrysler) out right before our very eyes, and exploding in flames like a Phoenix (Ford Pinto) when offended by a fender bender. Till one bright and shinny day, a bunch of knights (engineers) from Japan decided that they could rid the world of these monsters by offering a tamed down domesticated version of the DBT from across the big blue sea. All was well with the world. The End… or was it?

Toyota has lost its way when it comes to quality and the only one they have to blame is themselves. It’s easy to be the number one car manufacturer in the world if you ignore your customers and just keep pushing out units as fast as your factories can make them. Toyota basically refused to look in its own rear view mirror. So when did Toyota stop following the “Don’t do what the DBT did” business formula? The answer to that question is simple. When profit was more important than the quality of their product. AKA, if you build it then they will buy it or being number one is systemic with built in arrogance.

"Consideration for customers was lacking in Toyota," Seiji Maehara, Japan's minister in charge of transport, said this week after the government learned that the carmaker had known for months about a problem of squishy brakes on its Prius hybrid.

Yet until the Japanese government pressured them to recall more than 400,000 Priuses and other hybrid models on Tuesday, Toyota executives had insisted that the braking issue was a matter of driver "perception."

In the United States, where years-old problems with a sticking gas pedal led to a suspension in January of the production and sale of eight vehicle models, Toyota had also neglected customer complaints, blamed drivers and was not forthcoming with federal investigators.
- Washington Post

Recalling 400,000 cars is a huge admission of a serious quality control problem and that is not the way to keep repeat customers. Numbers of that size recall are nothing new to Toyota but seem to be the status quo. Going back to just August of 2006 it was evident then that Toyota had a quality problem and yet they still pulled a DBT. Has Toyota taken up the old DBT quality standard of built in product obsolescence? Could this quality problem be a precursor as to what will happen to Toyota jobs here in America?

At Toyota's annual executive meeting in June, its outgoing chairman, Hiroshi Okuda, its new chairman, Fujio Cho, and its chief executive, Katsuaki Watanabe, all vowed to the gathered managers that the quality issue would be addressed, according to a senior Toyota executive who attended the meeting.

"The quality issue is a big concern. They're embarrassed about it," said the executive, who insisted on anonymity because the meeting was private. He added, "You think about Toyota, and quality is in our DNA. We are concerned about looking like the rest of the pack. The market is forgiving because of our long reputation, but how long will they be forgiving?"
- New York Times

There is a reoccurring pattern when it comes to the blame game at Toyota and that is and has been to blame its engineers. Yes, they do have some ownership but the boys in the executive branch are the ones making the decisions that the customers end up buying and owning. Companies like the “New” Toyota are their own worst enemies when they “choose” to ignore the reason they became successful to begin with. QUALITY!

Click on the link for the full list of the latest Toyota recall. And you can be sure that the insurance industry isn't going to miss a heartbeat raising your rates when it comes to your Toyota car insurance. Poor safety performance on any vehicle is too good of an opportunity for them to miss.

UPDATE 2/15/10: Toyota considers incentives to maintain customer confidence post recall according to CNN Money


***Washington Post has linked to this post... Thank you!

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Anonymous Infidel753 said...

It sounds like Toyota has become over-confident and careless. That can happen to those who have been at the top of the heap for too long.

The efforts to downplay the problems as a matter of "driver perception" are even more alarming. As with politicians, attemtping a cover-up always does one's reputation more harm than the original problem. And as Detroit also found out in its day, reputation once lost is not easily or quickly regained.

Notable too that it was eventually the Japanese government that pushed Toyota to come clean. I guess it's like here -- free enterprise is the backbone of the economy, but the oversight of the state is needed to keep business honest.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Papamoka said...

I have to agree with you 100% Infidel. It just bothers me that they keep passing the buck to the engineers as a blanket blame explanation. That isn't the root cause of the failures. If it is in fact the engineers fault then the people in charge are in more trouble than they think. Somebody must have replaced the design tools for the engineering departments with crayons and somebody had to have authorized the purchase of those crayons.

10:07 AM  

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