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Wavering Brand Loyalty: The Toyota Recall

When did Toyota stop taking its customers seriously? When did it stop listening to them? Why would a self-described Toyota loyalist even ask these questions? Bear with me for a few moments and I’ll explain why.

My journey as a Toyota loyalist began at a young age. As a child I always knew my family could depend on our Corolla station wagon or hatchback to safely get us where we needed to go without any worries or drama. It’s hard to recall even one time when these cars let us down. (Well, maybe the time when one of my parents left the headlights on and drained the battery, but I don’t think that counts.) Even as a kid I remember admiring a company that seemed genuinely focused on making products of the highest quality—even its marketing seemed to take the high road and eschew negative mentions of other car brands.

Not surprisingly, when my significant other needed to replace his troublesome Pontiac, I strongly encouraged him to consider a Toyota. He saw the light, and for the past six years we’ve been driving a completely reliable Matrix which hasn’t let us down once. It seemed a given that our next car would be a Toyota (we’ve been coveting the Prius), but the recent recalls and Toyota’s handling of the situation have me questioning this choice and wondering what happened to the company I’ve admired for so long.

I guess part of me believes Toyota is a casualty of its own success. Like so many companies that grow large very quickly (perhaps too quickly?), it seems to have lost touch with reality and with its customers. Perhaps it even saw itself as immune to these types of problems. You can almost imagine company executives’ naïve disbelief at hearing news of the problems—this could NEVER happen at Toyota! It’s troubling to hear how customers’ concerns were initially ignored and how Toyota initially blamed the sudden acceleration problem on drivers. This type of behavior makes you wonder if besting the Big Three became more important than the brand’s pillars of quality, value, and reliability. I’d bet you that most Toyota owners could care less about the company’s ascendancy and simply want to know that their concerns matter—especially when it comes to safety.

Despite the recent recalls, I still have faith in the company—especially since I continue to experience the quality of its products on a nearly daily basis. I haven’t given up hope that Toyota will do some serious corporate soul-searching, review its priorities, and once again see the customer as its main stakeholder. After all, I still have my heart set on getting a gas-sipping Prius.

What are your experiences with the Toyota brand? How do you think Toyota has handled its recent quality problems? What, if anything, can it do to recover? A loyalist wants to know.

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