Imagine for a moment that you are out in your car and all of the sudden, the engine dies and won’t restart. No doubt many of us have experienced that moment at some point, but imagine for yourself that you are behind the wheel of your relatively new Toyota.
In a move that Toyota clearly didn’t need to happen, they are now going to have to recall some 270,000 vehicles because the engine is bad. The announcement comes out of Japan where the bad engines are mainly being noticed. Company officials aren’t saying that a recall is taking place, but said that the company is evaluating what to do in light of the problem. In other words, it’s happening, we just don’t want to talk about it.
Toyota provides for us a lesson in what is right and what is wrong in business. Toyota is a company that built a reputation on quality cars and trucks. They even sold them for more, with the idea that you were paying for the quality that can only be found in a Toyota. The problem is, the quality you were paying for was a state of mind rather than a real thing that you could touch and count on. Truthfully no car can be called totally reliable because at some point, you will have a problem. The big thing with Toyota is not that they built the reputation for quality, but that they didn’t follow it up with real quality, as we see in the accelerator problem and the engine problem they are currently addressing.
If you are in business, you know that building a reputation for being one of the best is hard to do and hard to keep. Toyota built that reputation that many of its competitors were envious of. The problem is when you rest on your laurels rather than continuing to push to be better. Toyota dealt with the accelerator problem and all of those that bought their cars and trucks wondered every time they got in if they would have a problem driving wherever they were going. Now, some owners are going to wonder if they’ll actually get there in their Toyota.
I’m not going to tell you that Toyota is a bad vehicle. Probably it is a high quality piece of engineering…now. The company has clearly learned a hard lesson that came simply when they were not watching quality standards like they should have been. The challenge now for Toyota is to rebuild their reputation. They have a good start with the ad campaign that tells people that they’ve learned from their mistakes and they are ready to sell you a high quality car. The problem is that it is just that, a start. It really will take years for them to get the reputation that they enjoyed back. In the meantime the competition will take advantage and sell more vehicles.
The lesson for us all is simply watch your quality level and take steps to be the best. And the biggest lesson for everyone is to admit when you screwed up and work to fix it. I am convinced that Toyota is doing that, so in the long run, they will survive.