You knew this was coming. In fact, you have known for a long time. For longer than I've owned a car with your brand on it. I'm on my third -- and last -- one. Recent events and discoveries have dismayed me. I read in horror the story covered in the New York Times - Toyota’s Slow Awakening to a Deadly Problem.
How do you go on for 8 years and do so little? 2,000 complaints of unintended acceleration, and only the recording of a deadly accident prompted you to step up your inquiry, after going through multiple government investigations since 2002.
Your customers, those same who remained loyal to your brand, to the mark of uncompromising quality you raised up high, were left wondering and leafing through helpful online recall guides. You put forth that it was Better to Lose Profits and Save Face, and made multiple apologies to that effect.
You made headlines, not the kind you would have wanted to, or could have made -- Subpoenas Hit Toyota on the Eve of Hearing. Did you lose credibility in people's eyes? There's still a lot of uncertainty on what the real problems are. Were the promises for improvement made in haste?
As customers we're left wondering about that $100MM savings from holding off the car recall disclosed in that internal memo, for example. A Super Bowl ad, a Google campaign, SEO/SEM-only blogs set up across the Internet, talks about cross-functional approaches in social media -- your communications are not integrated, nor are they aligned with what matters now.
Here is what matters: your customers.
- customers do vote with their wallet -- 27% say they are not considering buying a Toyota now
- loyalty must be a two-way street -- just like social media programs
- people value honesty -- customers value it especially
I'll be honest with you, you're sending mixed messages. If you care about your customers and there are true problems with the cars, as hearings and testimonies seem to indicate, it looks to me that precious time (and lives) might have been lost while we waited for openness.
As the article in the NYT says:
Asked why Toyota had moved away from a business model that prized quality and openness, Mr. Lentz (president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.) offered a simple explanation: “We lost sight of our customers.”
"Moving forward" is the company brand tagline. An unfortunate choice of words at the moment. Especially with customers who are stuck with a Toyota car.Could the Toyota recall crisis be helping the brand? What do you think?