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The Toyota story set to run and run

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By Henry Hilton

Toyota Motor Corp's president boss has finally stopped shilly-shallying. Mr Akio Toyoda has now agreed that he will appear in person before the U.S. congressional committee investigating the recall of literally millions of cars made by the world's No. 1 auto manufacturer.

The first act to the Toyota saga is now ending and you would have to be pretty biased not to see the event as a humiliation for the family-run company that has for decades been associated with Japanese industrial prowess. The lousy publicity has inevitably been translated into lost sales and a world-wide concern over the safety of Toyota cars.

What happens next will determine how and when Toyota can regain its badly dented reputation and start recapturing markets that are clearly collapsing at present. Since the scale of the recall is estimated to be in the region of eight and a half million vehicles, the debacle is extraordinary for the company that has only recently grabbed the coveted global No. 1 spot from General Motors.

It is a reminder too that there are problems for all car manufacturers in a market that continues to see too many companies. Toyota must sort itself out and will hardly need reminding that plenty of proud names with lengthy histories have continued to foul up in a highly competitive global market. Mergers and demergers plus state-funded collaborations are leaving wrecks everywhere. Renault may have "saved" Nissan but it is far from clear whether Fiat can work its magic with Chrysler.

Under such circumstances, it makes little real sense for sections of the Japanese media to complain that Detroit is set on bashing Toyota. The fact that among the safety allegations is the little matter of over 30 possible fatalities that may be linked to Toyota's vehicles rules such comments out of order.

It is also tempting but unwise to suggest that the United States is about to send out a lynch mob to get Toyota. Overseas journalists with lots of experience have long been covering the Japanese auto industry for North American and European trade papers and there is precious little evidence that they have been unfair in their recent coverage. It is, after all, two decades or so since the West stood guilty of bashing the Japanese car industry with attempts to restrict Nagoya with "voluntary" numerical restraints. Times have changed. European and North American workers on Japanese assembly lines want to keep their jobs and politicians everywhere are equally anxious that there be no backlash against Toyota.

The recent news of temporary factory closures in Europe and the United States by Toyota is bad news for the company and its employees. Those engineers working in Toyota's modern plant in the British midlands will recall that the original space was nothing more than an almost empty green area used by amateurs flying the occasional gypsy moth biplane. They and their fellow workers in Europe and north America are hoping against hope that the public backlash against Toyota will be short lived but that remains to be seen and is far from assured.

Two conclusions, though, are likely to emerge in what is about to become act two of the continuing Toyota saga. The first is the probability in the view at least of consumer analysts that European standards over faulty cars will be raised along the lines of the United States' National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This would lead to a mandatory scheme when manufacturers are first aware of potential safety faults to their cars rather than the present reliance on the manufacturers to own up to problems.

The second likelihood is that Toyota will have to step back and consider regrouping. The suggestion that ambitious sales targets may have been at the expense of quality will no doubt be debated within its headquarters and beyond Nagoya too. The blows that the company has taken in recent weeks may not be more than temporary by many within Japan but the attitude of the public abroad is almost certainly less forgiving. Potential buyers overseas are certain to want comprehensive reassurance over the safety of the cars it wishes to consider purchasing and this must involve accurate and detailed public information. Perhaps in the end Toyota may even have to reinvent itself.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
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Man, the remaining American automakers couldn't have asked for a bigger break than this. Talk about timing, maybe there's still hope for Detroit.

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I imagine that all the automakers have engaged in the foolish behaviour that Toyota has been caught up in. Best to not gloat. But Toyota has been excessively stupid in their handling of the whole mess. Articles compiled in manufacturing.net say that documents have been leaked from Toyota showing that the managers of Toyota USA have been discussing their efforts to deflect safety inquiries as a "win" for Toyota and a way to save money. $100M saved for keeping the acceleration problem from being a full recall last year, for example. Additional safety issues include rusting and breaking frames in Tacoma pickup trucks and the now infamous Prius brakes. In the meantime Toyoda-san is bowing and saying that customer safety is ichiban. Unfortunately actions speak louder than words; this is no longer a "win" for Toyota. Toyoda-san may not commit seppuku but the US Congress is going to skewer him just as badly. It's an election year and congress smells blood like a school of sharks. The Toyota USA managers might have saved $100M but at what cost?

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Perhaps in the end Toyota may even have to reinvent itself.

If, by reinvent itself, means

go bankrupt,

then YES!!

MAD CAR

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Henry Hilton ,thankyou for an unbiassed article,and I agree with your headline"The Toyota story set to run and run".The media don't usually care what they write,and yes we're probably going to see more Japan bashing.I agree that this doesn't help those employees that work in Toyota plants overseas.The end result might though,just might put in place regulations that effect all car makers not just Toyota,regarding consumer protection. Dictionary: "reinvent" bring back,revive,reinvent trust and accountability". I think more than than Toyota could use this. So I thought the use of this word "reinvent" to finish the article ,was appropriate.

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My Websters doesn't even have the word reinvent, darn it. But my own special one does, "reinvent" - devise new ways to dodge acountability

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The Edsel got back its reputation as did the Packard and the Corvair, and hey wait a second. Good luck Toyoda.

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only in america

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only in america

Yes, in Japan they would have stopped sales altogether until safety measures had been restored...

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"only in america Yes, in Japan they would have stopped sales altogether until safety measures had been restored..."

...The rest of the world is a bit bigger than just Japan (&USA)… only the USA mainly are making a big deal out of this.. in other countries its off the news radar as most car recalls are. No big deal.

I wonder how the many USA Toyota workers, designers, engineers, sales execs think about this.

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it will run and run in the news if the usa keep creating a news story out this and not other recalls, etc.

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Wow Mr. Hilton... yes your article is interesting but only if based upon the real Toyota and it's post bubble ventures. The Toyota the media is talking about is as close to the Toyota we actually have as the sun is to the moon. I warned through this very forum no less than five years ago that a massive fraud to make Toyota number two in the US market had been hatched - I had first hand knowledge of it. I saw grown men contemplate suicide over the orders that they 'assist' Toyota to this objective by falsifying the number of vehicles produced by all members of the Japanese auto makers lobby. The orders were specifically to double book all line-off products. That means that any components made in Japan that would be boxed and shipped to an off-shore plant for final vehicle assembly would be counted as a full vehicle and again counted as a second vehicle when assembled abroad. The short of it is that two cars were born out of one. I also warned that the memos I was privvy to clearly stated the goal of raising massive amounts of funds in New York through that 'growing' production volume. When the technology that's at the center of this issue came to be deemed as falling short of its intended purpose the companies using it - not Toyota only, decided collectively that they had found their long awaited cashcow. Parts were rountinely switched and charged to the unsuspecting customers. Guess what else? They claimed replacement and labor costs to the tech supplier... they had found a cow that give twice from the same udder. Now do you understand why Mr. Toyoda was suddenly thrust into the driver's seat? The heat was on and the top execs fled leaving the completely wet-behind-the-ears grandson to take the fall. Yes indeed this story will play on for decades to come.

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To the folks that think poor Toyota is being bashed, can you imagine the uproar in Jpn if it was found that a foreign makers car caused around 20deaths & a bunch of injuries, the natives wud go balistic!

And as for politicians taking advantage, well news flash THEY ALL DO WORLDWIDE any chance they get expecially in an election year just ask the new mayor of Nago in Okinawa, good ole Hatoyama has kinda put Futenma on hold because of.................politics & politicians........

Same crap politically happens every where, Toyota on the other hand has clearly screwed themselves on their own.

I just hope my estimas brakes & accelerator work properly & I dont become a statistic!

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i guess thats good for me seeing how i dont have or am even interested in getting a toyota i have a honda

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All this bashing does have me concerned and these Toyota problems are not new --> seems to me many are made up to get pressure off the U.S. Financial (banking) system that was going to be restructured over new (past) financial law.

It seems to me that the true Toyota problem is inherently small, yet we are made to believe that 1000% of all Toyota cars have drastic problems/flaws. = Many Toyota owners are needlessly being harassed by this media/government mandated fear. =If your car is having problems, please get it checked by your dealer/mechanic, otherwise disregard the media/government mandated fear.

I don't see anything productive from this "fear" and people that propagate it should be ashamed.

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So in the UK where they have covered the US story about Toyota.. it seems that cheryl cole announces separation, a story about a pot hole fixing machine, a comedian dies, a tv presenter apologies for swearing, etc are all more popular stories than the Toyota one according to the bbc website stats... (even though those other articles are harder to find on the site)

..so maybe only in the states is Toyota's business a big deal.

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American automaker used the media stupidity windows of opportunity for them to come, a great deal that Toyota could not fix in time at the time it happens (accident due to a break mat problem). Toyota will still be one of the biggest automaker in the world however the way the president handle the whole situation it looks more a kindergarten level when explaining to the world what happened with that particular incident and the plans to prevent and provide an air of trust for the products Toyota sells.

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Look, it's just their turn. Ford went through the same thing when they killed dozens of people and issued a massive recall, nearly put a multi-billion dollar international tire company out of business too.

And yes, it was the US government that forced them to recall too. And yes, in Toyota's case the Japanese government is investigating them too. Just goes to show you how little the conspiracy theorists know before they open their mouths.

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To the folks that say, "I have a Honda..." let me assure you that the ball is coming your way soon. Every manufacturer that uses the techonlogy has the sudden acceleration and brake failure problems.

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People shouldn't put a company, an athlete, or money on a pedestal because you will only be disappointed.

It is also tempting but unwise to suggest that the United States is about to send out a lynch mob to get Toyota. Overseas journalists with lots of experience have long been covering the Japanese auto industry for North American and European trade papers and there is precious little evidence that they have been unfair in their recent coverage.

Any news story on Toyota is going to sell newspapers, magazines, and increase TV/website ratings. With the increase of sales/ratings, advertising is going to increase with higher fees. Right now Toyota is a cash cow for the media in the States. Yellow journalism is used on Toyota to an extent. With all these reporting only a few are actual helpful to the readers and the rest is just news to increase traffic and the fight to be the top media agency. News reporting is subjective these days. It seems a majority of the people look at media as a form of news and at the same time sees it as a form of entertainment. As many posters on other media websites says, they don't know who to trust the media or Toyota or/and they don't know who to believe anymore. Both Toyota and the U.S. media lost integrity somewhere along the way to be #1.

This is an interesting piece and let the spin goes on. The tilted of the article, "What's Behind the Toyota Bashing?"

The former Kia chairman told the Herald that Toyota has had many recalls, which are a normal and responsible thing among all auto companies. However, said Kim, in the eyes of certain American financial interests, "Toyota has crossed the line that it should not have crossed."

http://www.larouchepub.com/pr/2010/100212behind_toyota_bashing.html

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Correction: The correct link to the article is http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2010/02/13/201002130027.asp

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