In watching Toyota deal with one crisis after another over the past couple of weeks, I cannot help but feel a little Schadenfreude about the whole situation. Here’s why…
For all the time that I was with Chrysler, Toyota was the bogeyman of the automotive industry. We were constantly pounded on that we needed to be more like Toyota. What was worse, being told to do more with less to play catch-up adds up to a no-win situation. I have no doubts that GM and Ford were in the same boat. And we’ve seen where that has led two of the three automakers.
The cornerstone of strength of Toyota has always been its quality, but it has taken some dings in the past couple of years. Its foray into the pickup truck market resulted in engine sludge problems and rusting frames. Now with the accelerator sticking on several models, and reported brake problems with both the “green” Prius hybrid & the flagship Lexus brand, it just adds some much needed tarnish on the Toyota logo. Face it – some humility is needed in order for reality to really sink in and address problems that happen with every manufacturer.
But they aren’t alone – the automotive media has also contributed to the Toyota myth of perfect quality. I understand that the crap that the Detroit-3 churned out in the 70’s & 80’s earned the disdain of the masses and media alike. But to continue the wholesale trashing of an iconic domestic industry that has improved tremendously from those years while either burying or ignoring the troubles of the foreign competition is beyond my understanding. Just review this earlier post, and you’ll understand.
Toyota had it in their sights to become the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, and in the process, lost their way. Becoming bigger doesn’t mean that you are better, and Toyota just found that out the hard way.