Every day seems to bring more bad news for the automotive giant Toyota with 4.5 million vehicles recalled internationally, a class action law suit, a congressional hearing starting in America and an award for energy efficiency being stripped in Japan.
Their main woes are coming from the US, also Toyota’s region of highest growth. But it seems the US is the source of the underlying problem, and where Toyota began to lose their way. Toyota has been a benchmark for quality and reliability in all markets, stemming from their ‘Toyota Way’ management technique.
According to the Washington Post this was an engineering program where young engineers were inducted into a 10 year program of supervision, ensuring they could attain the balancing act between low cost and high quality production. However with the unprecedented growth in the states they decided to move production closer to the point of sale to take on super brand General Motors for the US market.
This aggressive growth increased the demand for new engineers but at a rate disparate to the number of ‘Master’ engineers available to tutor the new engineers. This led to decisions that reduced the cost as well as quality, snowballing to the plethora of recalls in 2009 and earlier this year.
Without their Masters new engineers were lead to the dark side of cost cutting and away from the ‘Toyota Way’ of reducing costs and maintaining quality.
Mr Akio Toyoda, the current President of Toyota and direct descendant of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, recently announced an international quality control task force to monitor and raise quality levels across international vehicle production.
Can they claw back their once untouchable brand status or does this spell a fundamental power shift in the major brands? Volkswagen is aiming for top brand status by 2018. Is this ‘PR death star’ what VW were looking for or will the force prevail and the ‘Toyota Way’ return?