Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toyota and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

In 1972, childrens book author Judith Viorst wrote her most popular book, namely Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Told in first person, it starts out:

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

You'll have to forgive the executives at Toyota if they feel like this has become their biography.

What just a few weeks ago was one of if not the most trusted auto manufacturer in terms of quality has suffered hit after hit. First there was the problem with sticking accelerators, originally incorrectly diagnosed as their getting caught up with floor mats. Now, braking problems on Toyota's pride and joy the Prius have been made known. The recalls are mounting, the lawsuits are flying fast and furious, and when a car manufacturer is constantly the lead story on the evening news for all the wrong reasons it belies the notion that all publicity is good publicity. Toyota used to be able to boast it never took any bailout money. Now, it's its customers who are bailing out, fearful their car will simultaneously develop a stuck throttle and brake failure.

Regaining public trust once lost is a difficult proposition for any enterprise. In the auto world, the problems suffered by the original Chevrolet Corvair being built without a front anti-roll bar and the Ford Pinto's penchant for exploding in rear-end collisions due to inadequate protection against the gas tank rupturing in rear-end collisions haunted GM and Ford for years. Toyota has a very, very long way to go in restoring its reputation. It's not an impossible task, but it definitely won't be easy.

That all said, can you imagine what it'd be like for an insurance provider or agency to regain lost trust? Yeoww. It'd make cat herding seem like a breeze.

We all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Let's all resolve to make sure they don't turn into the kind of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days where executives from Toyota are calling to offer sympathy!

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