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Saturday, March 6, 2010


Issues of Bureaucracy

Apex, NC 3-5-10

As a native Detroiter, I take no solace in the fact that Toyota is in deep doo-doo. It hurts the entire industry. Slow moving reaction to customer issues is not untypical of any vast bureaucracy. Back burning an issue until it goes away is a common strategy in these organizations. Slow reaction is usually successful when issues need to go away. I know. I have a Master’s Degree in Organizational Communication and my grad thesis was on this very subject.

Do not get me wrong here. Detroit has screwed up in the past too. There is no perfection in the car business. You want perfection you have to look WAY up. The Ford Pinto, pick-up trucks with misplaced gas tanks, and Firestone tires are a few examples. But today, news flies at web speed. There are no places to hide information. It is in on blogs and on TMZ before you realize it.

We have a 2003 AWD Vibe in the garage that features an engine that river dances; the tach sticks at 1800 RPM. It then shoots up and back down to 550-700 RPM. Gunning it for the split second in neutral to get the RPM’s down simply does not work. It has a mind of its own. And that is never good. My guy at the GM dealership says possible vacuum leak. I am not so sure. But I do now how to brake slam and I can go neutral in a split second and I can shut off the engine with lightening speed. I have practiced this maneuver. I have only one life to give. And it is not in the driver’s seat of a car with Stephen King novelistic tendencies.

Toyota needs to fix what is broke. Remember the Pontiac is not even a complaint car. But how many more vehicles have a mind of their own? You must wonder. This story of over eight million recalled vehicles is a lesson, a case study, in not doing it this way again. My Dad told me years ago, you mess up; you fess up. Delays serve no purpose.

Toyota is changed forever. Their reputation for quality and safety took a major kick to the fanny. No one in the business disputes that. And you can bet that on the 12th Floor in Dearborn, over at the Ren Cen, in Auburn Hills, and across both ponds in Tokyo, Seoul, and Stuttgart; there have been formal white boarding sessions going on left and right on a daily basis.

Over time the industry and Toyota will recover. But understand the throne Toyota has been on is packed away and replaced by a desk chair. It is now more than time for them to get back to work to save the lives of their customers. A Congressional Hearing is very serious business. And there have been three of them. Remember that bureaucracy is always slow to change. But I know Toyota will do the right thing. It has to or it is the end of Toyota.

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