Recently Car and Driver posted an April Fools Day blog entry claiming Ford was bringing back the Escort – and I bought it hook line and sinker. Why did I fall for the gag? Because an increasingly out-of-touch and all-too desperate Detroit has been so enamored with its familiar formula of nostalgic branding that the absurdity of an Escort reintroduction didn’t seem outside the realm of possibility.
In December, Davis Brand Capital announced the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking. Toyota ranked #8 overall and was the top-ranking automaker. Since the release, Toyota has issued a series of historic recalls, and the brand has suffered a precipitous fall from grace. So far, the recalls affect more than eight million vehicles worldwide, with Toyota considering still more for its best-selling Corolla. And recall-related malfunctions have caused an estimated 34 deaths since 2000 in the U.S. alone, according to government data released this week. Beyond the direct financial, legal and ethical implications of the recalls themselves, Toyota faces a crisis of consumer confidence comparable to the Tylenol cyanide murders or the Ford Explorer/Firestone fiasco. Rebuilding consumer trust will require much more than a public relations war room and marketing blitz. Toyota faces a fundamental brand challenge that extends deep into its culture, its operations and its core meaning. As the story unfolds and an embattled Toyota hunkers down for the onslaught, important lessons from the crisis are already coming to light.
After much procrastination, my wife and I finally bought her first new’ish car. I’m on crutches because I’m a klutz, and we needed a vehicle with an automatic transmission that I could drive while I recover. So the timing was right for somewhat selfish reasons.
In January 2010, Toyota faced a nightmare situation for any brand, but particularly for one that staked its reputation on safety and quality: The company had to recall 2.3 million vehicles because of faulty accelerator pedals.
What makes one brand survive a reputation crisis better than others? While it would take a PR and branding genius to help, for instance, BP restore its tarnished image, how about less extreme examples? Consider the recent New York Times expose on General Electric that revealed how the corporate behemoth paid no taxes in 2010. GE made $14 billion in profits in 2010, $5 billion of that in the US — but its US tax bill is negative $3.5 billion. And yet, GE's reputation has not suffered as much as BP, Toyota or Goldman Sachs, at least so far, according to YouGov BrandIndex, the consumer perception brand research service.
Step back and consider the collective financial power of global brands and it's easy to see how much good they could do in the world. The fact is, many brands make donations and get involved in social and humanitarian causes on a regular basis. But a disaster of the magnitude that struck Japan late last week offers a unique public relations and humanitarian opportunity for brands to participate in relief and recovery.
Toyota's Ideas for Good project is raising the bar on crowdsourcing creativity and kindness. In the open spirit of brands that invite developers to play with their data and create apps, the automaker is offering to share its intellectual property (good ideas) to others who may see applications that could address issues or needs in their worlds.
For years, Toyota has been the darling of the green business world. The hybrid Prius was a legitimate business home run (2 million sold), and it helped both differentiate Toyota's brand as the market innovator and propel Toyota to unprecedented profits. But now the company faces renewed competition for the title of green auto leader.
Corporate reputation is very fragile. What takes years to build can be ruined overnight. Just ask BP, Toyota or Goldman Sachs. This year some of the nation's biggest companies and corporate brands faced disasters, privacy breaches and product recalls that underscore the fragility of corporate reputation and consumer trust in big companies.
Car companies have long tapped high-profile celebrities to spread word of mouth about new cars by test driving them around town. Now they are turning to a similarly powerful but cheaper source: young social-media influencers who have strong online followings.
With the flurry of new hybrid and electric vehicle introductions, Toyota is concerned about Prius getting lost in the growing crowd. So the company reportedly plans to add some models to its four-seater version and expand Prius into its own brand. That would give Toyota a fourth brand moniker in addition to Lexus, Scion and, of course, Toyota.
Elon Musk looks like a kid who just walked into a toy factory. The 39-year-old CEO of upstart car company Tesla Motors stands on the main floor of the New United Motor Manufacturing plant and looks with awe from one giant piece of machinery to the next. The car factory, known as Nummi, is located in Fremont, California, but it’s an industrial city unto itself. It encompasses 5.5 million square feet and contains a plastics molding factory, two paint facilities, 1.5 miles of assembly lines, and a 50-megawatt power plant. Since 1984, Toyota and General Motors had run Nummi together, producing as many as 450,000 cars a year here until it was shuttered in April. Now, in a remarkable turn of events, Musk owns the place.
Interbrand has released its 2010 ranking of the world's best global brands. The 11th annual assessment of the world's most successful brands for the first time doesn't include BP, which lost billions of dollars of value, and brand equity, due to the Gulf Oil spill.
Call it the year of the recall. The massive recall of 550 million eggs is the biggest of its kind to hit the nation -- yet it's just one of dozens of major recalls consumers have seen in 2010. In the span of last week alone, companies like Tyson, Garmin and Johnson & Johnson pulled all manner of consumer products, including GPS devices, contact-lens solution, hip replacements, flat-screen TV wall mounts, popsicles, deli meat, baby bottle warmers and yet more Toyota cars. It's unclear whether there's actually been a dramatic spike in 2010 in the number of recalls (a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman last week it doesn't track that information) or whether it's merely that the recall announcements are being faster and more broadly publicized thanks to social-media channels.
A couple of Japanese automakers and three domestics in the U.S. are quite possibly hearing voices under their beds, in their closets, over their shoulders: "Hey, guys, we're ba-a-a-ck." "We," of course, is Toyota -- which has seen sales recover in the U.S. and just-announced strong results for the first quarter of fiscal 2011. And in July it appears that Toyota began to see the consumer-perception needle sputter to life. A new study from YouGov BrandIndex says that last month, Toyota was the most-improved of any brand, including those not in the auto sector in consumer perception.
After turning in the worst performance in May sales among major automakers in the U.S. market, Toyota is launching a new marketing campaign (and charm offensive, led by Toyota president Akio Toyoda) to try to get American consumers thinking once again about what once made the Toyota brand so great. Two years ago it was the world's best-selling automaker. Yesterday, Toyota reported that its U.S. sales in May improved by only 7%, while its competitors reported double-digit increases over their dismal May 2009 results. Toyota execs had plenty of excuses – including the fact that they had a tough comparison with last year’s sales while domestic automakers were at their nadir a year ago. It's also hurting from consumers' fatigue with its massive program of zero-percent-interest loan incentives introduced earlier this year. But it’s clear that many potential car buyers remain leery of Toyota’s products and promises in the wake of the company’s massive safety recalls early this year. Naturally, Toyota wants to shift the conversation to more positive messaging.
As Mr. St. Angelo and several other longtime American executives tell it, a new era has arrived at Toyota. Its face is Mr. Toyoda, who this month reaches his first year as president, and by these accounts, has come to appreciate how closely Toyota flirted with disaster in the United States — and is prepared to shake things up because of it.
Toyota showed resilience in the face of its recall crisis on Tuesday by reporting a Y112bn ($1.2bn) net profit for the three months to March, a period when the carmaker’s reputation appeared to be crumbling under the weight of safety problems with millions of its vehicles.
"You can't beat somebody with a nobody" is the old political axiom, and it applies to marketing, too. Lately, a number of marketing somebodies have gotten into serious trouble. Typical reaction in the media: "Whoops! There goes the brand." Not so fast. Once a brand has a strong position in consumers' minds, it is almost impervious to flak.
Reputation is a "soft" concept that most managers and employees don't feel is their job to manage. Instead they view it as the role of senior executives, or of functions like corporate communications, marketing, advertising, or public relations. While this is certainly true to some extent, it may also be a cop out. For example, two firms that are consistently at or near the top of the "most reputable" companies list (based on extensive consumer surveys by the non-profit Reputation Institute) are Johnson & Johnson and The Walt Disney Company. Despite having many types of businesses, J&J emphasizes through its "credo" that every employee has a responsibility to put the well-being of the people they serve first. Similarly, Disney makes every employee feel responsible for the entertainment products and services they provide. So maybe their positions on the top of the reputation list are no accidents.
The bad news at Toyota is in overdrive. Since the recall of the Prius for its deadly acceleration problems, the carmaker has been hemorrhaging sales and consumer confidence. Now, even its luxury brand, Lexus, is under investigation for "stability" problems. Ouch!
Just when Toyota’s record-level incentive program had begun getting many buyers to forget about its massive safety recalls during the first quarter, there's fresh concern about a safety problem in a Lexus model—a danger so grave that it prompted Consumer Reports magazine to issue a rare warning against buying the vehicle at all. On Tuesday, Toyota stopped worldwide sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 sport-utility vehicle, the brand’s largest SUV, after the consumer watchdog warned that the 460 had demonstrated a dangerous handling tendency in tests, one that could lead to rollovers and possibly cause “serious injury or death.”
The message was written in January by Irving A. Miller, then a group vice president for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., to another Toyota staff member. Three days later, the carmaker, bowing to pressure from Congress, federal regulators and consumers, issued a recall on sticking pedals affecting millions of vehicles. The cry for action by Mr. Miller, disclosed in documents made public for the first time last week, came at the end of an extraordinary four-month period for the Japanese automaker. In that time, federal regulators say, there had been deliberate efforts by company officials to keep information about possible defects from the government.
Toyota has toughed its approach to critics in recent weeks, including the implementation of SMART units -- Swift Market Analysis and Research Team -- that quickly examine reports of equipment malfunctions. They have been successful in discrediting several high profiles cases, but the effort has backfired in at least one instance.
How does a great brand like Toyota, built over decades, lose its way so quickly? For that matter, how did General Motors stumble? And how about Kmart, Washington Mutual and Circuit City suddenly become irrelevant? One day these companies were global leaders. The next, seemingly, they were flat on their backs, bleeding years of brand building and future sales and profits.
As Tiger Woods prepares to tee off at The Masters on Thursday, the humbled athlete is not the only one counting the cost of his fall from grace. The 34-year-old golfer’s reputation as a clean-living and dedicated sportsman and husband was undone when his infidelities were spilled across television, newspapers and internet sites in the wake of a mysterious car accident at his home in late November. Mr Woods’ success on the course had enabled him to line up lucrative sponsorship deals off of it, with brands including Accenture, Nike, Gillette, Electronic Arts and Gatorade signing him up to lucrative sponsorship deals. Some estimates suggest that the arrangements made him the world’s first sports star to make $1bn in career earnings.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the U.S. plans to seek a $16.4 million fine against Toyota Motor Corp., saying the auto maker "knowingly hid" safety problems from regulators. The proposed fine, the maximum allowed under law against a car maker and far exceeding the previous record of $1 million, is the first linked to Toyota's recall of more than eight million cars globally for gas-pedal and sudden-acceleration problems.
Toyota is turning to digital to generate buzz and create a cool factor for its Scion brand. Add to that all the requisites of a bona fide TV production, and the result is “Reinvent the Wheels,” a six-episode, web-only series, on your computer now @ www.reinventthewheels.com. Targeted to the younger generation, the series has been created, cast, and produced like reality television, replete with trailers, behind-the-scenes interviews, music downloads, explosive graphics, and an episodic time clock countdown.
Toyota Motor and Mazda Motor announced a deal under which Japan's top automaker will supply its hybrid technology under license to Mazda, in the latest linkup within the fast-changing auto industry. Japan's No.1 and No.5 carmakers have been discussing the possibility behind the scenes since last spring as the popularity of gasoline-electric cars surged in Japan with the help of generous government subsidies.
A company shows anxiety on its face — that is, on its Web site, which has become the face of the modern corporation. Visit sites for recently troubled or confused enterprises, including Maclaren, Toyota, Playtex, Tylenol and, yes, John Edwards, and you’ll find a range of digital ways of dealing with distress.
In the contemporary era of heightened green awareness and ‘ethical consumption’, major companies have quickly realised that consumers are looking for greener brands, writes Lynne Ciochetto. Design has played a key role in reinventing company profiles with new environmental messages, and designers should question these claims.
Traffic and sales are way up at Toyota dealerships, thanks to aggressive incentives, Kathy Jackson and Arlena Sawyers report, but the spiffs could damage the traditionally high resale value of the brand. "Incentives fuel sales from bargain shoppers," says Kelley Blue Book analyst James Bell. "But once that audience is satisfied, it remains to be seen how much buyer interest they will see -- no matter how much cash they put on the hood."
It has been a rough few months for Toyota because of its three big safety recalls. But the automaker’s luxury division, Lexus, appears to have avoided much of the fallout. Even though a Lexus ES 350 was involved in a widely publicized accident before the recalls, Lexus sales are up about 5 percent so far in 2010 compared with last year. That is close to the average for other luxury brands.
What do Ford Mustang, True Religion jeans, Xbox 360 and Coke have in common? Kids are curious about these brands, and are going online to ask questions about them en masse on social media platforms catering to youthful queries.
Toyota has announced three major recalls covering a total of eight million vehicles globally since October 2009. The recalls are for defects that have been associated with 52 fatalities and 38 injuries so far. Not surprisingly, the business media and notable Toyota experts are starkly pessimistic. We looked at 108 Wall Street Journal articles discussing Toyota during February, 2010, and found that 106 were negative to Toyota. In a recent column by Dennis Seid, Jeffrey Liker, an economist and author of The Toyota Way observed that the hearings and the resultant lawsuits could severely damage the company in many ways.
Does your company measure financial performance? Keep track of sales, employee turnover, bad debt and general and administrative costs? Plan annual spending and review projects with a view of return on investment (ROI) and return on invested capital (ROIC)? Do you have periodic reviews to assess progress against your plan? Those are the basic building blocks of any well-run company.
With embarrassing vehicle recalls and testy congressional hearings behind it, Toyota Motor Corp. is planning an assault next week on its critics as the company digs in for a mammoth legal battle. In a media event planned for Monday and a Tuesday address to 1,000 suppliers, the Japanese auto maker plans to defend its electronics systems. It will roll out independent experts like the head of Stanford University's auto-research center to discredit a study that suggests electronics are to blame for sudden acceleration in some Toyota vehicles.
Toyota executives are trying to stop the brand bleeding as they deal with safety recalls and attempt to jump-start sales with a new incentive program and a fresh TV-advertising campaign aimed at shoring up consumers’ overall confidence in the company. But at the same time, Toyota also has been launching an important new product, a completely made-over, 2011 version of the Sienna minivan. The long-derided minivan segment has been showing some signs of life lately, and Toyota still sees it as an important category for the long term, as its Generation X customers move through parenthood.
Toyota is employing a marketing campaign to mitigate the horrific damage it has sustained over the past several weeks – including an estimated 18,000 “lost” sales in February, billions of dollars in repair costs, and an untold deterioration of its once-sterling reputation. Even as Toyota executives testified on Capitol Hill this week, the brand was unveiling a whole new approach in its TV advertising and launching the company’s most ambitious incentive program ever. “We’re back in the sales business,” Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota division of Toyota Motor Sales USA, declared to reporters on a conference call yesterday.
Ford Motor Co. surpassed General Motors Co. in sales last month for the first time in at least 50 years, presenting a new headache for the government-owned car maker as it struggles to return to profitability. Hours after the sales results were disclosed Tuesday, GM announced an overhaul of its top managers—the second executive shuffle in three months. The news underscored the impatience of GM Chief Executive Edward E. Whitacre Jr. and the heat the company is feeling from a resurgent Ford.
General Motors has blamed a supplier partly owned by Toyota for a faulty car part that led to the recall of 1.3m Chevrolet and Pontiac cars in North America. Bob Lutz, GM’s vice-chairman, on Tuesday told the BBC in Geneva that the supplier – separately identified as JTEKT, a joint venture between Toyoda Machine Works and Koyo Seiko – had not met “all requirements for reliability and durability”. His criticism came as Toyota, its reputation battered after recalls affecting more than 8m cars and trucks, sought to reassure US lawmakers at the third congressional hearing in the past 10 days into the safety and reliability of its vehicles.
The seemingly continuous commercials during the coverage of the Winter Games on the networks of NBC Universal gave a new meaning to the term “snow job.” It was as if every spot showed snow, or ice, or both, in which skiers, skaters and snowboarders cavorted. That made it difficult for ad-weary, ad-bleary viewers to distinguish the commercials from the actual coverage of the Vancouver Olympics. Perhaps that was the sponsors’ fiendish intent: to perpetrate the ultimate blurring of the line between advertising and content.
Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota Motor in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Wednesday offering something he hopes will start to repair the company's image among consumers: an apology.
When a brand goes directly after its competition in an ad, there's always a price to pay. A poorly executed competitive ad makes the advertiser look boorish; a well-executed one puts the competitor on the defensive. Audi's latest jab at BMW appears to be the latter: The ad is classy and humorous, yet gets the point across. It depicts winning and losing moments (for example, a father who beats his son in a toy car race) with the voice-over: "In every friendly little competition, there's a winner... and a loser." Audi closes with the fact that it beat BMW in three straight Car and Driver comparisons.
Well, both Tiger Woods and Akio Toyoda have apologized for their transgressions, thereby following -- however belatedly and incompletely -- the scripted advice from communications experts: Woods looked into the camera and admitted his sins, while Toyoda did the Japanese understatement thing and then had his staff take out full-page "open letters" to customers.
There’s no question that Toyota is in deep trouble with its current recall crisis. But could these issues actually be helping its brand? Shockingly, an analysis of Toyota shows that its Social Influence Marketing (SIM) Score saw an uptick in January. Who’d have thought that a crisis of such significant magnitude could actually help a brand’s perception? This seems to be true, at least in the short term, even though sales may be dropping. Let me explain how.
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda vowed Wednesday to tighten quality control management by personally leading a new global quality-control task force. But he said he doesn't plan to visit the U.S. to appear at congressional hearings scheduled for Feb. 24 in Washington on the company's safety record. In his third news conference in less than two weeks, Mr. Toyoda emphasized the progress made in fixing the braking systems of hybrid cars that have been recalled in Japan.
I'm a tough customer. I admit it. Takes one to know one. I'm a loud shocking dose of reality for companies that sell me something. I expect too much from them. I've given them my money for, and put my trust in; their products or services, and I expect them to value that accordingly. I can be a firm's greatest ally or its worst nightmare. So when something goes wrong, I want the company to fix it. Now! When it takes too long, I let them know it. When service representatives can't solve the problem, I want to talk to their bosses, their bosses' bosses, all the way up to their CEOs. And when a service rep tells me, "My supervisor will just tell you the same thing," well, there's nothing I want to hear less.
Successfully responding to a corporate crisis -- like, say, having to recall millions of vehicles because they accelerate out of control or have trouble stopping -- isn't that complicated. The experts say you need to tell customers everything you know as soon as you know it, and you should never ever give the appearance that you're spinning the story or, worse, covering up bad news. "You can't hide," said Bob Grupp, president of the Institute for Public Relations, an industry-funded think tank. "These are uncomfortable situations to be in. But in today's 24/7 society, you have to step up and acknowledge your reality very quickly." So why don't more companies do it?
Toyota's latest crisis illustrates a problem that will continue to plague multinational businesses: what does "the brand" stand for when there's seeming limitless breadth, depth, and variability to corporate activity? In other words, crises haunt big companies like ghosts, and I'm surprised that there hasn't been more demand that we turn on the lights and look at what these machines and their brands really mean.
Toyota has begun the painful and difficult task of trying to convince consumers that they should buy the beleaguered company's cars -- even as worries mount that more bad news may be ahead. Capping a week of by-the-book crisis management, including television appearances by top executives, the world's largest automobile maker has begun to air a commercial aimed at restoring confidence in its vehicles.
On Jan. 19, in a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., two top executives from Toyota Motor Corp. gave American regulators surprising news. Evidence had been mounting for years that Toyota cars could speed up suddenly, a factor suspected in crashes causing more than a dozen deaths. Toyota had blamed the problem on floor mats pinning the gas pedal. Now, the two Toyota men revealed they knew of a problem in its gas pedals.
Toyota said Tuesday that it would recall 437,000 of its 2010 Priuses and other hybrid models worldwide because of a glitch in the braking system, as the Japanese automaker moves to contain a crisis over problems with a range of its products. About 223,000 of the cars recalled are in Japan. Some 155,000 are in the United States and another 53,000 in Europe.
Toyota’s recalls and disclosures in recent months are part of a lengthy pattern in which the automaker has often reacted slowly to safety concerns, in some instances making design changes without telling customers about problems with vehicles already on the road, an examination of its record shows.
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor, apologised on Friday for defects that have resulted in the Japanese carmaker’s recall of more than 8m of its cars, saying he would head a new taskforce within the company to lift quality standards.
It's tough going these days if you work for Toyota or any of its partners. It's tougher being a customer especially with the doubt surrounding loose floor mats and sticking accelerator pads and safety concerns in general. And then there's the perceived broken trust and the lost credibility associated with a brand that seemingly reigned supreme in terms of relationship, bond and loyalty.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. arm said Friday that its dealers have received the parts and training needed to fix accelerator pedals in recalled vehicles. In a statement, the world's No.1 auto maker by sales volume said the repair requires 30 minutes of work. It also said it has begun mailing letters to the owners of recalled vehicles. "Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive, and we are determined to live up to the high standards people have come to expect from Toyota over the past 50 years," said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales.
With all the talk about social networks and engagement, when it comes to getting things done, we rely on search. The image above was part of the set I used last Fall at the Inbound Marketing Summit when we talked about the importance of creating content for sharing. There was another interesting study I did not mention at the time that confirms a few of the following statements on social media as content delivery mechanism to:
Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that it is investigating the computer-regulated braking systems of all other hybrid models, such as the Sai and the Lexus HS250h luxury hybrid sedan, following complaints about its Prius hybrid model. Toyota said that the recent brake problems in its smash-hit Prius hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle involved computer software used in automated systems and said it did not try to "cover up" the glitch.
The mea culpa and brand-saving by Toyota Motor Corp. began today, as the embattled carmaker launched a public relations defensive on all fronts -- print, TV and social-media networks -- in a bid to salvage its image in the wake of the 2.3 million vehicle recall.
Toyota has announced a shockingly comprehensive response to relatively limited reports of a sticky gas pedal: it has suspended production and sales of nine models and recalled millions to replace the potentially offending part. Comparisons have been made to Johnson & Johnson's famous and much lauded reaction to its Tylenol product tampering crisis in the early 90s. I don't think anybody is going to write a textbook entry on Toyota's actions, however. And it's too bad: as the President's chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel said last year, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This event is likely Toyota's biggest branding moment in recent memory, and what is it telling customers, renters, dealers, vendors, and employees? Nothing, or not much as far as I can tell.
Toyota Motor on Monday said it would begin fixing accelerator pedals in millions of recalled vehicles this week, with some dealerships staying open around the clock to speed the process. The company said its engineers have developed and “rigorously tested” a remedy that involves reinforcing the pedal to eliminate excess friction. It said it had an “effective and simple” solution for current owners; dealers will install a steel reinforcement bar into the pedal assembly to reduce the surface tension that could cause it to stick.
Toyota said Friday that its recall of eight models in Europe could include up to 1.8 million cars, pushing the total number of vehicles affected by problems with floor mats or gas pedals to more than 9 million worldwide. That is nearly as many vehicles as was sold by all automakers in the United States in 2009.
Long the quality and efficiency standard-setter, Toyota now has an ostrich-sized egg on its face — a problem with sticking accelerator pedals that led to global product recalls and a suspension of production and sales. There are important lessons to be learned from Toyota's stumble: Competitive success is fluid. It depends on continuously discovering better ways to do work. The capabilities to do this are powerful but fragile and need constant reinforcement. Relentless attention to their development can lead to great success; conversely, a loss in attention can have grave consequences.
Hyundai Motor, the biggest South Korean auto maker, said Thursday that its quarterly profit had almost quadrupled as its small cars proved popular with recession-weary buyers. Fourth-quarter net profit reached 945.5 billion won, or $819.7 million, considerably more than analysts’ forecasts. That total compared with profit of 243.5 billion won in the fourth quarter of 2008 and profit of 979.1 billion won in the third quarter of 2009. Sales in the October-December quarter grew 9.3 percent from the same period a year earlier, to 9.65 trillion won. Hyundai also posted a record quarterly operating profit of 837.2 billion won, up 44 percent from a year earlier.
Call it the stop heard ‘round the world. The Detroit News is reporting that federal regulators were pushing Toyota to take more decisive actions to deal with the affected vehicles. The venerable brand's subsequent decision to suspend sales of several recalled models until it figures out its accelerator-pedal problem -- including its best-selling Camry and Corolla sedans – sends a shocking signal about just how serious the situation is and how badly the company’s top management has bungled it.
Toyota is a company that has built its entire franchise on quality and reliability, and today, it faces being discredited at its very core. The carmaker's corporate-communications department has, so far anyway, attempted to make the recall of 2.3 million vehicles sound like a typical single-vehicle recall. But it wasn't -- not by a long shot. You don't have to look any further than the Audi brand between 1978 and 1982 to see how faulty acceleration can put a severe break on sales and trust. Audi had one model affected; Toyota has eight.
The Ford Motor Company earned $2.7 billion in 2009 and said Thursday that it now expected to be profitable in 2010 as well. The profit for 2009, equal to 86 cents a share, was a swing of $17.5 billion from 2008, when the company lost $14.8 billion. It is Ford’s first full-year profit since 2005. The company ended 2009 with $25.5 billion in cash reserves, nearly twice the $13.4 billion it had at the start of the year. It also expects an operating profit in 2010, which is a year sooner than executives had previously said the company would become consistently profitable.
As Toyota’s problems mounted in North America with the announcement of a halt to sales and manufacturing of the bulk of its cars, commentators in Japan fretted Wednesday that the automaker’s problems could seriously hurt the reputation of the rest of Japan’s manufacturing sector. “Toyota’s reputation for safety is in tatters, and it is inevitable that its image among consumers will suffer,” the Sankei Shimbun daily said.
When Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said two years ago that he was determined to zoom past Toyota to become the world's biggest automaker, the notion seemed laughable. At the time, the German automaker sold 3 million fewer vehicles than Toyota, was losing ground in the U.S., and had a reputation for iffy quality. Toyota, then set to pass General Motors as the best-selling carmaker on the planet, seemed unassailable.
Daimler AG's decision to double down on Formula 1 racing—a move it reinforced on Wednesday when its Mercedes unit signed on star driver Michael Schumacher—has left many in the auto industry scratching their heads.
As carefully crafted brand images go, it's hard to beat Toyota's. Over a generation or so, Toyota (TM) built its reputation — and U.S. market share — on dependability, at a time when General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler couldn't shake being identified with lemons. The Japanese automaker initially built its lineup around fuel-efficient cars, while Detroit was focused on gas-guzzling SUVs. Mostly non-union Toyota opened U.S. plants and promised no layoffs for permanent workers. Detroit, meanwhile, laid off employees by the thousands and shuttered dozens of UAW-represented plants. But Detroit's nemesis lately has suffered through its own run of bad press, much of it involving a consumer hot-button: vehicle safety.
Toyota Motor Corp. aims to sell its upgraded plug-in hybrids globally in about two years, taking the contest for dominance of the low-emission vehicle market to the next level, a company executive said Monday. In doing so, the world's biggest car maker by volume intends to pull away from rivals focusing on the development of electric cars, said Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada at a press conference.
Toyota is one brand that can’t wait to leave 2009 behind. As Abe Sauer wrote just last week regarding its recall of some 4 million vehicles due to an accelerator problem that was responsible for a dozen deaths: It can promise "it won't happen again," but... Well, it’s happened again, and there’s a painful yin and yang relating the two recent sets of problems. Last week’s news involved cars that kept accelerating. This week’s involves cars that suddenly stall – like while you’re cruising along the interstate, or navigating an intersection, or (in theory) as you’re trying to cross some railroad tracks as an Amtrak Acela barrels toward you. Last week’s news made Corolla and Matrix owners sigh with relief when they learned their models didn’t have the acceleration troubles. Guess which two models were affected by this week’s news?
Companies approach social in one of two ways: The first way, companies experiment with little order or goals, the second way, companies have clear goals and intend to invest in a deeper relationship.
A top executive with the U.S. arm of Toyota Motor Corp said on Monday the automaker may expand the Prius nameplate into a marketing sub-brand for a broad family of low-emission, high-mileage hybrid vehicles. Speaking at the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit, Bob Carter, the group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc, said the proposal was controversial within the company and that a final decision on the idea was more than a year away.
This is a Japanese phrase meaning “go and see for yourself”, which is a central pillar of the Toyota Way, the famous management system adopted by the Japanese car company. Genchi genbutsu is sometimes referred to as “get your boots on”, which has a similar cadence and meaning. It is not dissimilar to the idea behind management by walking about (MBWA), an all-too-briefly popular American version of the same principle. Both MBWA and genchi genbutsu are more a frame of mind than a plan of action. They acknowledge that when information is passed around within organisations it is inevitably simplified and generalised. The only real way to understand a problem is to go and see it on the ground.
Toyota Motor Corp. is preparing a $1 billion marketing blitz to juice U.S. sales in the fourth quarter and plans to expand its line of gas-electric hybrid models under the Prius name, people briefed on the plans said. The strategy, aimed at revitalizing its key North American operations, was laid out by Toyota President Akio Toyoda and his top U.S. lieutenants at a meeting in Las Vegas with the company's U.S. dealers. The world's largest auto maker needs to turn around its North American business after acknowledging it expects to report a loss in its current fiscal year, which would be its second annual deficit in a row. Toyota executives vowed to go "pedal to the metal" in the fourth quarter, using financial strength to drive sales as the U.S. economy appears to be recovering, these people said.
Sales of luxury cars, once considered resistant to recessions, fell almost 21% last year -- double the decline in overall car sales -- and continue to slide this year. That raises a disturbing question for auto makers: Is it merely a reaction to the downturn, or a long-term change in consumer behavior?
Once in a while, a brand strategy is announced that is so stupid, so antithetical to the principles of brand management, that it takes your breath away. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Aston Martin Cygnet.
With more than 60 percent of Toyota Motor’s WAP traffic coming from the iPhone, the automaker decided to take a different approach to mobile with the promotion of the newest Prius car model. To better cater to these loyal iPhone users, Toyota launched a mobile site optimized specifically for touchscreen devices such as the iPhone. IPhone users can access the Toyota site at http://m.toyota.com and click on the Prius icon to get rerouted to the iPhone optimized site.
Dying to hear how the stereo system of an Infiniti convertible sounds? Check your mobile phone. The automaker has a mobile music application that runs on Facebook and plays melodies on mobile phones while users ogle pictures of the new G37 convertible. The Tokyo-based auto company is also buying text ads on mobile news feeds and embedded spots for mobile video.
Toyota, which last fall signed on as one of three inaugural sponsors of MySpace Music -- the News Corp. property's independent label -- is activating the partnership with "Rock the Space," a competition encouraging unsigned bands or solo artists.
Dramatic shifts in "consumer involvement" are game-changers for brand marketing and innovation The economic downturn is causing a fundamental shift in how consumers interact with brands. To survive and thrive, marketers and innovators need to dramatically increase their focus on measuring and understanding consumer "involvement" and involvement frequency across the "journey of interaction" with brands.
When it comes to car shopping, opinions from friends, neighbors, and acquaintances go a long way to predisposing a consumer to this or that brand or nameplate. But according to automotive consultancy AutoPacific's new analysis, new-car owners who recommend their vehicle have to be a lot more than just pleased with it to talk it up. The firm's new analysis on owner recommendations quantifies owners' level of confidence to see which new car owners will recommend their model most.
With sales of hybrid vehicles sinking, a green-advertising battle is erupting between Toyota Motor's new Prius and Honda Motor's new Insight. Beginning today, Toyota, the world's largest auto maker, is rolling out a major U.S. ad push for its 2010 Prius, the third generation of the world's top-selling hybrid vehicle. The car hits dealerships in the coming weeks.
Toyota is looking to a greener future — literally — with dreams of an ultralight, superefficient plug-in hybrid with a bioplastic body made of seaweed that could be in showrooms within 15 years.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s incoming president, Akio Toyoda, has a sobering message for the giant company founded by his grandfather: It has gotten too fancy for its own good. On Monday, three top executives who helped lead Toyota the past four years announced their retirement. The departures clear the way for Mr. Toyoda's planned makeover of the world's biggest auto maker.
No matter that Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII turned out to be one of the best ever, in terms of football. Some of the biggest advertisers--including Budweiser and Toyota--looked like also-rans, and consumers seemed underwhelmed by much of the advertising.
Ford wants to call its Fusion Hybrid the most fuel efficient mid-size car, Toyota says no you can't.
The effort lets consumers find Toyota Certified Used Vehicles in classified listings at dealerships in a shopper's area. Toyota has branded information sites on its certified pre-owned program and also lets site visitors connect to dealer Web sites.
Chrysler said late today it will shut down all its plants at the end of the last shift on Dec. 19, with factory workers not back to work before Jan. 19. Despite that, the automaker will continue some current marketing efforts. Both Ford and GM have made similar moves.
Toyota Motor apparently doesn't expect demand for cars to rebound until well past 2010--the automaker has pushed back plans to produce some models from that date.