Toyota & Brand

I drive a 1998 Toyota Camry. You know, from back when they were quality cars? Seriously, its a great car. Except for the sensor on the exhaust system that makes my check engine light come on, nothing but normal maintenance required.

For years (decades?) Toyota was synonymous with build quality. Safe, reliable cars. People paid more for them. Today, not so much. What a difference a few weeks and multiple very public recalls make.

I’ll admit, when I first hear about the gas pedal recall, I was not really concerned. The news asked all the local Toyota dealers if they had any incidents, and none had. In a city Orlando’s size, that’s saying something. Then the brakes for the Prius. And the shaft on the Tacoma. Now the steering on the Corolla.

After the first recall Toyota started running ads talking about their commitment to fixing the issue. Good move, or it would have been if there hadn’t been so many other recalls. Now I see the ads and wonder at their sincerity. Fix the problems and then tell me it’s fixed. It does not instill confidence for me to see an advertisement that says Toyota is fixing the safety issues on day and then to hear about more and more issues that need to be fixed.

A series of quality issues with their product has eroded the trust in the Toyota brand.

What can we learn from this?

Don’t rest on your reputation. It’s obvious now that some serious production issues have been brooding in the company. There was a time when the reputation of Toyota meant you would pay more for a used one. The last time we looked at a used Toyota van I had a conversation with the sales guy who flat out told me that they could charge more for it simply because it was a Toyota. And, had it been in our price range, we might have bought it at that price because of the brand name. Now, I would pay more for a Honda or Ford.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you can’t stop moving forward. And you definitely cannot let the quality slip. The name Toyota only stays synonymous with quality if the quality of the product remains high. As an outsider it seems obvious that Toyota relaxed their standards. I don’t know what happened in the company, but four major, public recalls in a matter of weeks points to some significant issues.

I have no doubt that Toyota will very soon e churning out automobiles of amazing quality again. but I don’t know how long it wil take for them to rebuild their reputation.

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3 thoughts on “Toyota & Brand

  1. Pastor Link, I can appreciate your concern and encouragement that an automaker never rest on a previous reputation… but that is the doubt that I believe is being fed by Washington politics… not necessarily major failures by Toyota. Ask yourself this question… who has the most to gain this year from Toyota losing customers? I see the current flurry as being over inflated, a circus, fueled by an administration that wants to payback UAW, give a nice sales bump to GM and Chrysler (government bailed out automakers), and by lawmakers who see Toyota as an easy target to make themselves appear as “advocates of the people” during a season of populist, anti-Washington anger. Attacking Toyota is a lose proposition for the public. The committeee in Washington in March will grandstand… it looks great on camera… the Japanese will be polite and take the rap and be insulted… a sad commentary on Congress in my view. Right now, anyone can log a complaint… but complaints aren’t necessarily fact, and human beings have a tendency when hearing bad news to fill their minds with any percieved error as being real. What I am saying is that I think Toyota is getting the short-end of the stick. Even if it has some failure (automakers do have recalls), I do not think it diminishes their history of quality and care that stands out far better than some competitors.

  2. I think there is a definite difference between complaints about cars and an automaker issuing an actual recall. In my opinion, Honda and Ford would sooner see a bump in sales because of this, before GM and Chrysler.

    Every automaker has recalls. I have taken in a couple cars I’ve owned. But this is more along the lines of the Explorer tires a few years ago. And the quick succession of the multiple recalls adds to the brand erosion. Even if it is politically motivated, the way Toyota is handling them has not helped.

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