Even though we wrote what seemed a perfectly adequate speech for him, Akio Toyoda chose to fumble his way through a hastily-called press conference this morning instead. We want to be on this guy’s side, but he is doing nothing more than providing fodder for comedians. As Bartel Schmitt of TTAC put it, he said basically nothing, other than offering “a heartfelt apology for causing so much trouble to many of our customers.”
So what is the company going to do? Why, they’re setting up a committee on quality control. I mean, Jay Leno would be hard-pressed to come up with a better answer. To add to the farce, we heard straight-faced Jim Lentz, Toyota’s U.S. sales boss, serving up whoppers to NBC’s Matt Lauer—among them that the company first heard about unintended acceleration in October of last year.
It was a case of deep irony when the press finally picked up on Akio—in Davos at the World Economic Forum when he should have been at home minding the store—driving off in an Audi in the midst of the recall crisis. Jon Stewart had fun with that and more, producing a classic send-up in his “Toyotathon of Death,” which follows.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Toyotathon of Death|
One website announced that Toyota was recalling defective airbags to install new and improved ones. The company was taking these measures
so that in the event a gas pedal sticks on any of our vehicles, and if firm and steady application of the brakes and/or frantic waving of the arms fails to stop the vehicle, Toyota’s improved airbags will reduce the amount of injuries or fatalities to Toyota owners.
Some auto writers ended up being funny in spite of themselves. Autoweek’s Mark Vaughn got testy that many were just taking the Toyota business too seriously. “Look people, there are 600 NHTSA recalls a year, almost two a day.” Some are for serious safety defects, and here we are, making a total tsimmes over sticking gas pedals. Mark says it’s just too easy to blame plain old dumb driving on the manufacturer. There are dangers in most all cars, he says.
Mark, I hereby nominate you for the first CarGurus Head-in-the-Sand Award for 2010.
Fortune’s Alex Taylor wrote a thoughtful and critical piece about the historical/cultural problems plaguing Toyota’s “no-show leadership.” But claiming the excuse that it’s always been a company run by engineers, people who are “uncomfortable with softer subjects — especially in different cultures — that aren’t easily understood through a root-cause analysis,” well, that’s a cop-out if I ever heard one.
Taylor “senses a deep debate going on inside the company [on how to handle the recall].” Well, guys, the time for debate is over. Unless you want to see more jokes on late-night TV and more plummeting sales.
Any other humorous aspects to the Toyota debacle that you have noted?