Is Toyota too arrogant?

From blaming Americans to being slow to apologize, Toyota is bungling its response in every way. With video update.

By Kim Peterson Feb 4, 2010 1:48PM
Credit: (© Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)Toyota's (TM) problems continue to intensify, as the U.S. opens an investigation into brake problems in the 2010 Prius.

The company is now in a full-blown crisis, leading many experts to look at how it got into this mess in the first place. And one message is coming across loud and clear: Toyota has been too arrogant.

"For too long there has been a sort of arrogant air at Toyota," said Jean Jennings of Automobile Magazine (video below). "'We can sell all the cars, our cars are reliable, we can sell every one of them.' They don't need PR, and now they do."

Toyota's poor attitude is evident in the way it's handling this mess. Just look at the news conference the company called in Japan to explain the recall. Its president, Akio Toyoda (pictured), didn't even show up.

We're talking 8.1 million vehicles worldwide affected by the recall, and the president doesn't take this head on? Post continues after video.

In fact, the only executive there was one in charge of quality and control, according to the Guardian. Industry watchers tell the newspaper that Toyota could have avoided much of the anxiety and extra costs surrounding the recall if its president had come out immediately with a mea culpa.

"I've never seen Toyota like this," one researcher told the Guardian. "Until recently, they had a culture of reacting swiftly to problems. But the impression I get now is that [its PR operation] is not functioning very properly."

Motor Trend's Todd Lassa agreed that Toyota is bungling its message. It blamed floor mats, it blamed throttle pedals, and then it blamed an American supplier, CTS of Indiana, which said it made the part to Toyota's specifications, Lassa wrote.

"Blaming the supplier does, indeed, seem like passing the buck," Lassa wrote. "And in any case, all cars and trucks are assembled with parts from many suppliers. To try and transfer the blame is cheap and disingenuous."

Later, Lassa wrote, some Japanese Toyota employees blamed Americans working in Toyota factories. This would never happen in a Japanese factory, they told Public Radio International.

Hoo boy. If we keep seeing this from Toyota, then it deserves all the bad fallout it's getting.

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