Toyota: What’s the Bottom Line?

Well, another cold morning in NE Ohio. And I’m tethered to the treadmill. Arrrgh. So I’m chasing the belt, keeping my eyes and ears tuned to the TV Talking Heads, and putting my faith in Punxsutawney Phil — PETA notwithstanding.

And of the stories that are making the continuous loop throughout the 24-hour news cycle, what’s happening with Toyota is important to say the least — and it demonstrates once gain the value of trust, credibility and timely, honest communication.

Toyota is in the midst of a major recall involving millions of vehicles. The fundamendial issue: safety. Hey, how do you feel about driving in a car or truck where the accelerator might stick — for whatever reason? So the company is faced with a problem that has to be fixed — and much sooner than anytime later.

Toyota — as best I can tell — has an excellent reputation for quality and customer service. And it has strong brand loyalty as a result. But that wasn’t always the case. I’m old enough to remember when the Japanese automakers didn’t have much of a reputation for quality or anything else. And in large measure, for Toyota, that’s what’s in play now: it’s reputation for quality and service and the hard-won, and sometimes all-too-easily-lost, customer loyalty. (Ask Tiger Woods. Oops. I digress.)

Did Toyota act quickly enough in making the decision to alert owners and potential customers and to suspend sales? And is it doing everything possible now to help owners in a way that lets them retain confidence in the company — and really, in the safety of their vehicles?

Here’s from an article in USA Today:

Whatever the fix, it won’t be immediate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it must approve whatever remedy Toyota chooses for owners of its recalled vehicles. And CTS probably would require months to crank out enough new pedals to make a dent in the 2.3 million recalled cars and trucks, if Toyota settles on replacement.

Will Toyota be able to quell its customers’ worries soon enough?

“This could be the breaking of the Toyota mystique in the eyes of the American consumer,” Dalip Raheja, CEO of Mpower Group, says. Mpower analyzes risk and quality concerns in relationships with outside suppliers.

So Toyota has to demonstrate now that its products are safe. That it is taking responsibility for fixing problems — and is responsive to customers’ concerns.

But when you get to the bottom line here as elsewhere it’s about trust, confidence and credibility.

And honest, timely communication.

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