With 8.5 million Toyotas now recalled worldwide since last September, the world's largest car manufacturer is struggling underneath the monumental pressure and negative media attention surrounding the saga. But is it fair? Or is Toyota now a punching bag for the recent issues of other U.S. manufacturers?
Last year saw the collapse of numerous American car manufacturers, most notably General Motors. Toyota, which has remained as one of the most successful companies of all time, escaped the heat and capitalised on the cash-for-clunkers incentive program to remain on top and finished 2009 as the world's biggest manufacturer of automotive vehicles.
Only a short few months later and it seems all the American anger at the collapse of their iconic brands is now targeted solely at the Big T for its indirect involvement in causing American car makers decades of nightmares and tough competition which arguably led to their eventual downfall.
Instead of seeing Toyota as the brand which brought the idea of reliability and fuel efficiency to the masses, the American media is now taking every opportunity to tarnish Toyota's reputation.
Some industry analysts such as Hans Greimel (Asia editor for Automotive News) are calling the event an American witch hunt. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's said recently that he promises to “hold Toyota's feet to the fire” and advised motorists to “stop driving” Toyotas. Statements which further support the argument that the issue has grown completely out of proportion.
Of course it all makes perfect sense. The United States government which is investigating the Toyota recall issues is also the biggest shareholder in General Motors Co., Toyota's direct competitor in North America. The words "conflict of interest" come to mind and one has to wonder how fair the Japanese company is being treated by U.S. authorities at the media.
Many in Japan are now concerned that the Toyota issue is turning into much more than just a recall. Japan's Nikkei business daily wrote “As the midterm election nears, the U.S. government and the Congress are seeking an outlet for voters' dissatisfaction, the target is turning into Toyota.”
The problem has become such an issue that Toyota is predicting a global sales decline of at least 100,000 vehicles, nonetheless the negativity surrounding the Big T is affecting all Japanese products in general.
Some economists are now claiming that the recall saga could cost Japan's gross domestic products up to ¥600 billion ($7.25 billion) and even economic growth by 0.12 percentage points. It may also mean that Japanese vehicle sales could decline by 300,000 overall this year as the Toyota saga might affect all Japanese manufacturers.
“Considering that Toyota represents Japan's corporate identity, a loss in confidence would potentially affect all Japanese products,” the Nikkei said.
Do you believe Toyota is being treated fairly?