All companies have changed since their inception. Whether they succeed, and take off into a grand flurry of activity, revolutionizing their markets, or whether they fail miserably and face utter decimation at the hands of the masses, companies have, and always will, continue to change in not only the style and amount of products produced, but also the way these products are received by the consumers who would purchase them. One company that has done some changing recently, changing that isn’t great at all to the majority of its loyal consumers, is Toyota. Their latest vehicles have come under fire for their alleged endangerment of its passengers. Indeed, Toyota’s future is shaky and on unstable ground thanks to their vehicles being linked to a number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But Toyota’s reputation has not always been so badly received.
At one time, Toyota was a marvelously received company. Though it hasn’t always been in direct competition with US car dealerships, such as General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motors, over the past generation or so, it has become quite the nemesis to the faithful American brands. Its lineup of fuel efficient, reliable cars put the gas guzzling SUVs of American companies to shame. This time is where Toyota began to build a reputation for quality, durability, and reliability that would go practically unmatched by American auto companies for over 30 years. But now Toyota has come under fire for not assuredly keeping this record. Both to the consumers, and even to themselves as a company- last spring was the first time since its inception in the 1950s that Toyota closed a money losing fiscal year. But of course, these financial problems are far overshadowed by the safety of the consumers who still enjoy Toyota products.
The original safety issues brought forward to Toyota were about the largest recall ever made by the company; consisting of over 4 million vehicles, that have a defect in which floor mats jam the gas pedal open, and cause “unintended acceleration” for the vehicle. This problem has seen its stir of media attention, being blamed for at least 5 tragic fatalities, and over a dozen more accidents and injuries. These issues have caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall over 100,000 vehicles of model years ranging from 2000-03. It’s perhaps because of this that Toyota’s sales are also decreasing- now reaching critical levels, as they are down over 23% through the past 11 months of 2009.
With all the tumult in Toyota’s reputation, it’s no surprise that more than just consumers are put off when dealing with the company. The head of a Washington DC Crisis Firm, Eric Dezenhall, says that Toyota’s reputation may not be repaired soon at all- “There is something cosmic that happens when a company hits the top. That’s when the Visigoths show up at the gate with slingshots and torches,” Dezenhall says. Perhaps the cosmic fate of Toyota’s reputation is to be burned completely away, with another company such as Volkswagen soon to take its place in consumer’s hearts as one of the best, safest brands of cars. Others, too, believe that Toyota’s amazing stability and success throughout the years will make it harder for the company to come to grips with its current status in consumers’ eyes.
Jeffrey Liker, famed University of Michigan professor who authored the best selling “The Toyota Way” takes a different stance, however. He believes the company has not yet seen any consumer dissension, and will continue to be well received for its past successes. He points out that though the recalls may be perceived as odd, on a personal level, few have experienced bad problems with the company, and so Toyota’s reputation will not be in dire straits for long.
Toyota, like so many other companies has worked long and hard for its reputation both in its mother nation of Japan and in America. But only time can tell if the reputation they have built up as a reliable and affordable company will allow them to stand strong and revive past the recalls and other problems, or if it will not be enough, and this blemish on their otherwise perfect record will stay with the company forever.