Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Toyota Recall--What Nissan Should Learn...

Just a little opinion piece I wrote the other day for Nissan Sport Magazine. It becomes even more relevant now that Toyota owners who have supposedly had their cars fixed are still complaining of issues. I still maintain that a majority of these issues are the result of moronic human error--exactly what happened with Audi in the 80's, look it up. Since Audi's problems with American political and societal groups in the 80's automotive engineering has improved by leaps and bounds, the human brain and our legal/political system has figure it out...

As long as you haven’t been living in a cave you know that Mr. Akio Toyoda is on the verge of committing hari-kari while being grilled by various politicos in Washington. As a fan of Nissan I look at the situation and think to myself, what lessons can Nissan learn from Toyota’s problems?

With the bottom line problem with Toyota’s vehicles still in question (is it floor mats? Electronics? Elderly drivers? Delusionary speeders?) I’ll leave the engineering issue aside and focus on Toyota’s response to the problems.

As I see it, Toyota has made the cardinal mistake of failing to control perception and not creating its own reality. By downplaying the issue and allowing others, be it the media or politicians or disgruntled owners to become the most vocal and visible participants in this bru-ha-ha, Toyota ceded control of the situation to others.

Perhaps it’s related to traditional Japanese culture to be quiet, unassuming and humble in times of difficulty but in confronting problems within trial lawyer happy America, it was the wrong move.

Perhaps with the non-Japanese Carlos Ghosn at the helm and a more turbulent history than Toyota, Nissan is better prepared to confront a public image catastrophe, driven in part by a direct competitor (as the U.S. government is by default with its ownership of GM). It had better be, as with the fall (at least in the eyes of the consumer) of Toyota and the introduction of such high profile vehicles as the Leaf and others, Nissan becomes a bigger and bigger target against which those with agendas both genuine and synthetic will launch their spitballs.

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