What’s Going on in Toyota? Something is Terribly Wrong


Toyota is without doubt Japan’s top enterprise known throughout the world for the high quality of its products and the size of its market capture.  The company earned high reputation for its quality cars and more recently for the development of hybrid engine technologies.  However, recent conducts of Toyota appear to be somewhat strange to me.

First, problems in accelerator pedals were reported of Toyota cars in the United States, then followed problems in the brakes of Prius that triggered accidents repeatedly which eventually led to the recall of the huge number of Toyota cars.  I understand that some technical problems were the cause of these events and I say this is a great problem since Toyota is known as the leading company of Japan ? a nation characterized by its technology and high quality of products.  The company even received some tough words from the U.S. government.  This already is a great problem by itself, but what worries me (and I think you will agree) is the response of Toyota.

This issue is reported as big news by overseas media, but I feel that the news coverage has been smaller, in fact too small, in Japan.  Can it be that Japanese newspapers have difficulty in handling this news coverage because it might threaten the basic credibility of Japanese industries?  I think Japanese people should investigate this issue more closely and think more seriously.

I hear that this problem was being reported in the United States since 2007 and Europe was aware of this problem for more than 2 years or so.

Recently the executive in charge of the matter appeared in press interview in Japan.  Since the interview was on TV what he said before or after is unknown, but when he said ‘The customer’s senses on brake….’ I thought ‘What a response, this is a big problem’. It looked like nothing but an interview for ‘making excuses’.  Toyota totally missed the point in question.  Later on February 5th, President Akio Toyoda talked to the press (Although his English was acceptable I think he needed to have ‘the professional’ – I don’t think they have any in the company ? prepare draft and coach him).  Everything he said was a late response, not to mention of his comments which were all ‘defensive, excuses, putting the blame on customer’s senses’ etc., etc.  I must say this was a worst example of risk management.

I doubt that some kind of atmosphere which made people refrain from expressing open opinions have been developed over years in the company and the factories..  Toyota’s slogan used to be ‘kaizen’, ‘from bottom-up’, and ‘expect every employee to identify problems and come up with solutions’ – this was their claimed culture.

Particularly when faced with ‘accidents’ or ‘events’, the damage caused tends to grow bigger and bigger along with the passage of time.  ‘Transparency, objectivity, speed, customer (victim) first attitude’ is the basics of risk management.  I wonder what is going on in Toyota…

I am very, very concerned.