As outcry surrounding the Toyota recall debacle continues to intensify, one question has been popping up again and again: What happened to the company?
“The suspicion is that Toyota, in the recent years, has lost its core focus on quality,” said Daniel Diermeier, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences. “It’s not the pedal that’s the problem, it’s the process that let Toyota or prevented Toyota from making sure that all their parts function effectively.”
Toyota has long been famed for its corporate philosophy and manufacturing process—known as The Toyota Way—that placed high quality and low waste at the forefront. Though the company may have successfully reduced its manufacturing waste, it has been making a mess of its brand over the past few months.
“It was a very bad decision to wait a long time before the president, Mr. Toyoda, took center stage,” Diermeier told Expertly Wrapped. “It looks like the company is disengaged.”
Toyoda’s appearance in a February 5 press conference and its focus on quality was “the first thing I’ve liked,” he said, “And it should have come much, much earlier.”
“The damage may already be done. It may just be a question of how much you can save,” Diermeier said. “They’ve got to go back to their core competencies. They have to look at whether the culture that has led to the high performance on quality has slowly been eroded, they have to look at processes, and they have to communicate and reemphasize this message again and again and again.”
Ironically, the Congressional hearings may be just what Toyota needed. Though the spotlight may be uncomfortable, Diermeier said the company should hope for continued scrutiny. “If it goes away now, the brand is damaged for a long time,” he said.
“There is a sense now that they have lost their way…They have to fix that,” Diermeier said. Still, he thinks Toyota can turn things around by continuing to own up to the problem, vowing to return to their quality-focused roots, and pushing the message that they are addressing the problems. Just don’t expect a resurgence anytime soon. “It’s going to be painful. It’s going to take years,” he said.
Photo by Matthew Gilbert (doctorious).