The Epic Fall of "Brand Toyota"

Though we all are quite aware of it, it's actually amazing to see how quickly things turn topsy-turvy in this ever-changing world. There cannot be a better example of the previous statement in the recent past than the epic recalls and the resulting controversies surrounding the automotive giant "Toyota". From being the benchmark in the world for "Production Efficiency, Quality, Reliability and Dependability (name whatever you want and you would find Toyota in the top of the heap) to being the reason for the hue and cry of millions across the globe for a quality problem, that should have been a tumultuous, spiraling journey to the bottom for the now-disgraced giant. To realize that all these happened in a span of a few weeks makes it even more interesting and something to be pondered over upon.

In the last two to three decades, Toyota had everything good in this world coming towards it. It took the coveted title of "World's Largest Car-Maker" from the erstwhile GM in 2008 (which incidentally has held the title for 80 long years) only to realize that it's easier to get to the top of the heap than maintaining it. The manufacturing techniques and concepts that Toyota pioneered became the benchmark for the whole world  which was eventually followed by every other OEM. Toyota's manufacturing methods were successful and efficient to such an extent that there have been a handful of books released on this subject, each of which were global best-sellers. Only very-recently could Toyota realize that the very manufacturing techniques which it invented had some simple yet serious flaws here and there that had been overlooked. Toyota, along with it's luxury division Lexus dominated the Quality, Reliability and Dependability surveys across the globe for years together, so much so that even the mighty, established Germans (Mercedes-Benz, BMW & Audi) could take a leaf out of it for their improvement. GM, Ford and Chrysler were forced to follow the new-leader if they sought to stay in the fight. Growing Asian manufacturers like Hyundai, Suzuki, etc. had Toyota as their default benchmark when looking at growth. 

Toyota experienced all this rapid and unprecedented growth only to fall hard and fast to the bottom. In fact, it went so high up in the ladder that there seems to be very little chances of bouncing back soon. There may be some who may think that it's very early to write-off Toyota in this manner. After all, most of the quality techniques followed globally are actually the brain-child of Toyota's top-thinking honchos. A quality issue in a single model in a single region can easily be siphoned off as a one-off case. But a problem in most of it's best selling models (Camry, Corolla to name a few) across the globe hinted at something serious which would have surely surfaced in the past but was dramatically overlooked and covered-up in the race to the top. NHTSA's revealing of the fact that a few cases of this "Unintended Acceleration" issue came up in the year 2004 only goes to prove the previous point. Also, the confession by NHTSA that it did force Toyota into the recall rather than Toyota voluntarily doing it only made things worse for "Brand Toyota". I am sure that Toyota, being the self-inspiring, quality-conscious manufacturer as it wa(i)s, will surely come out of the dust very soon just like Audi and Ford did some years back. 

Till then and forever, it's a lesson learnt the hard way for Toyota and in a not-so-hard way for other auto-makers who are in the race to reach the top. Going to the top needs utmost commitment and hard-work but staying there needs even more of the above qualities. A little slip-up might push you face-down so hard and fast. Beware Volkswagen, Hyundai-Kia and the like. One of your peers has just experienced it and made your life easier.  

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