media abounded with stories and commentary regarding Toyota’s quality. For
Toyota, a company built on a reputation of quality, this is a big setback.
my January 2010 column, I wrote about the problems of Toyota becoming too
large, too quickly and the increase of quality problems the company was
experiencing (‘Big’ Problems for Toyota). At the time I wrote
the column in December, I could hardly have expected how these quality problems
The media abounded with stories and commentary regarding Toyota’s quality. For
Toyota, a company built on a reputation of quality, this is a big setback. They
have suffered a huge “black-eye” regarding these multiple recalls. However,
unlike the multiple recalls that have plagued U.S. automakers during the past,
Toyota and its dealers have responded in ways that demonstrate a degree of
courage its peers do not possess.
Toyota shut down all production for nearly a week so that it could identify and
correct process, design and manufacturing problems related to the
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, made a public apology before Japan and the
world for quality issues related to the recall and in particular, problems with
the Prius model.
Local dealers pulled sales and other personnel from their normal duties to help
schedule and facilitate gas pedal fixes and other issues related to the recall.
Toyota and some of its individual dealers have bought air time-the dealers paid
from their own pockets-to advise Toyota owners what to do in case of
encountering the acceleration problem or how to schedule their recall. One such
commercial is this one running in the Washington, D.C. metro area, www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYQ7OeZQNao&
The company continues to meet the situation head on. When was the last time you
saw one of these steps taken by a U.S. automaker after a recall?
When the Chevy Express and GMC Savanna were recalled during 2008, did you see
GM’s then-CEO Rick Wagoner make a televised apology to the country?
When the 2009 Dodge Ram was recalled for issues that could result in loss of
steering control, did U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood go before
Congress and warn people not to drive their Dodge pickups?
Toyota Motor Corp
For how many weeks did Ford suspend manufacture of the 2009 Ranger when it was
discovered that front wheel spindles were at risk of cracking, resulting in the
Some might suggest that Toyota is taking the above-mentioned measures it has
because of fear of losing market share vs. concern for their customers. That’s
a cynical view of a company that has a long reputation of putting the customer
first. What sets the Toyota recall apart from other recalls is that they
prompted it without government intervention, the usual catalyst for recalls. In
a country that demands action be as quick as picking up a burger from a drive
thru, Toyota’s actions were slow, but the company wanted to identify the
problem and provide the correct fix rather than rush its actions and have an
Toyota’s situation teaches manufacturers to act courageously in meeting quality
problems. They have been taking a beating in the media, among analysts, from
competitors and various governmental bodies who all have a stake in seeing them
lose their reputation and sales. In such a situation, you would likely face a
similar challenge. Nothing is a more time-honored tradition than knocking a
champion off his pedestal.
Toyota’s recall is a lesson to never take quality for granted. Quality must be
under continuous review up and down the supply chain, and from design through
manufacturing. Manufacturers need to continually evaluate their processes
regardless of whether market share increases, decreases or remains static.
Share your thoughts with me at email@example.com
, or share your thoughts
with other Quality Magazine readers at the Quality Magazine LinkedIn Group page