News / Economy

Toyota Faces Tough Job Rebuilding Reputation

A still image from Toyota's commercial addressing Recalls in the US
A still image from Toyota's commercial addressing Recalls in the US

Multimedia

Audio

Japanese automaker Toyota has announced yet another recall. This time it is Tacoma pickup trucks sold in the United Sates. The announcement is the latest in a string of recalls that have hurt the company's image, and prompted concern among many in Japan.

The Toyota brand is an icon in Japan. Its global success is a source of national pride. So when the automaker announced plans to stop selling millions of its cars in the United States and Europe last month because of gas pedal defects, the Japanese were concerned. When the company expanded its recalls to Japan, the public reacted with disbelief.

Toyota was founded in the early 1930s but the its real success came after World War II when it developed something called "The Toyota Production System." The system focused on "kaizen" or continuous improvements. It called for flexibility on assembly lines, and mandated that problems be fixed as soon as they were discovered so mistakes would not be repeated.

Quality and reliability became Toyota's selling point. But with defective brakes, sticky gas pedals, and loose floor mats prompting recalls of Toyota cars worldwide, that reputation is falling fast.

Jeff Kingston teaches modern Japanese history at the Temple University branch in Tokyo. He says the company has lost its way.

 "I think they've grown complacent, resting on their laurels," he noted.  "I think their management system is antiquated. We've seen how slow decision making can be."

Kingston says the company waited too long to respond to the problems. It took weeks for Toyota President Akio Toyoda to speak publicly about the recalls. When he did hold a news conference, he apologized for "inconveniencing the customers." He also has vowed to "redouble the company's commitment to quality."

Kingston says that apology was not enough.

"Toyota has failed to measure up to international standards; it's also failed to measure up to Japanese expectations," he added.

Toyota's problems come amid a growing number of complaints, accidents, recalls and financial problems for several leading Japanese companies. The spike in complaints is partly the result of a new law that requires Japanese companies to report serious product-related accidents.

Government reports also say the number of domestic car recalls doubled between 2004 and 2008, compared with the previous five years. Last week, Honda recalled more than 400,000 cars worldwide because of defective air bags.

Waseda University Finance Professor Yukio Noguchi says Toyota's problems are a sign of arrogance, after years of global success. But he says it is unfair to compare its problems with those of other Japanese companies.

"This problem is a very special problem and you cannot draw general conclusions from this about Japanese manufacturers as a whole," he explained.

Toyota is trying to restore its image with a massive public relations campaign. The company has placed full-page ads in newspapers and is airing TV commercials in the U.S., vowing to put quality and customers first.

But Kingston says Toyota must go further than that. He says the company must become more transparent and accountable, and reconnect with customers.

"Look at [South] 5-Korean companies," added Kingston.  "Look at how they're charging ahead. Look at how they've got that competitive edge. Japan needs to regain that."

With increasing competition from South Korea, Kingston says Toyota and other Japanese companies must change fast.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.