I have wanted to write about the whole Toyota scandal but was gathering information and my thoughts. A lot has been written about what is wrong and what hasn’t been done up to now and what is to be done from now on to fix the recall problems.
I am interested in what Toyota is going to learn from this “going forward” after they have fixed the issues with the recalled vehicles and settled whatever they need to settle with injured parties and the families of people who lost their lives.
Digg.com did a Digg Dialogg yesterday with Jim Lentz, President and COO of Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
In the interview/dialog, Mr. Lentz was asked questions from the Digg community who wrote in a head time. I was one of those who sent in but it was not asked during the interview. Here is what I had posted:
" As a Japan-US business consultant who has lived in Japan, I have seen Japanese companies do wrong and do the apology ritual many times. I am hoping that a great company like Toyota [ that] has certainly missed step with these issues, will be able to genuinely handle this crisis. My question is this--What will Toyota do now to handle this crisis that is different and sincere as compared to how Japanese companies usually [handle] scandals? And let me say that I applaud this method--it shows a willingness to really put yourself out there and not hide from the really tough questions. Perhaps this is my answer."
The answer to my question is the fact that the head of this major corporation's American arm was putting himself directly in front of the people and addressing the massive recalls that Toyota has instituted.
I have always said that Japan is a country that does not like to face anything until it reaches crisis level and unfortunately, they do not handle crisis well. Case in point.
Were these issues with their vehicles long standing and not addressed until it became too big to ignore?
Mr. Lentz is the American face of Toyota which is the largest Japanese company. He mentioned in this interview that the head of Toyota is in Japan making all the apologizes and focusing all his time on the quality issues. While in America, they are handling the customer service issues.
I found this a bit strange. Because as far as I know, it was Americans that died and the majority of the recalls and scandal are here in America. So why is the Japanese President of Toyota not on American TV apologizing?
The main reason is this and it is also the main problem. Toyota sees itself as a Japanese company that does business in America. It does not see itself as it truly is - a global company that started in Japan and now operates everywhere so to speak and therefore has responsibilities to each country in which it does business (this is in fact true of many major Japanese companies). So that is why the president of Toyota is on TV in Japan apologizing to the Japanese people and not here in America. He is letting the American handle the Americans. Big mistake.
Japanese company/person screws up; they go on TV and apologize (which happens so often the apologies seem like they are being phoned in and just a step in the overall process that they have to perform and then go on).
Toyota (HQ Japan) is going to have to learn a very painful lesson and they are going to have to learn it very quickly. It is this---Times have changed. The days of "we are sorry" said on Japanese TV is not going to cut it. It is going to take much more than that and they are going to have to do it on a global level since it involved people who are not Japanese. They didn’t let the Japanese down. They let their American consumers down, first and foremost.
Mr. Lentz and his American PR machine are using the tools of today to go out and address these massive issues. He has been on You Tube, he has done DIGG and who knows what else will be coming up.
But he gets it that if Toyota is going to even hope to survive this and come back strong, they have to go further than companies embroiled in scandal have ever gone before, they have to be more open and more transparent that ever before, they have to go where their customers are --not just apologize on canned TV news shows but to the online community using the tools that we use to communicate these days.
Toyota HQ in Japan needs to get this and get it quick. People died in America due to issues with Toyota vehicles so Mr. Toyoda should be in America. There is no way to get around this, nowhere to hide. By facing the music in person here in America, Mr. Toyoda would actually be doing the only thing that will start rebuilding consumer trust and confidence in the Toyota brand. He is going to have to lose “face” in order to build a new and better face.
I know that all major decisions for Toyota branches worldwide comes from Japan HQ. The apologies, explanations and ownership of the fault/blame needs to come from there too. If the Japanese are worthy of direct apology by Mr. Toyoda, so too are the Americans.