Reflecting on Toyota’s 2,411,117 Recalls in 2005

That’s quite a big number. It’s actually more vehicles than Toyota sold in the U.S. in 2005. It’s more than double the number for 2004. It’s not as many as some other car companies, but far from zero defects. A December 7, 2005 article in the Chicago Tribune titled So Far, Problems Seem to Just Roll Off Toyota’s Back identifies that the customers’ perception of Toyota quality seems to have lessened the public relations impact of this surge in recalls.
Autoblog picked up on this article and asked it’s readers on January 18, 2005 “What’s your opinion?” There are 31 reader comments and counting, from a cross-section of opinions, personal experiences and perspective on the quality of domestic and import automobiles.
One commenter on Autoblog makes the connection between software bug fixes (service packs) and automobile defect fixes (recalls, a.k.a. service bulletins): Oh, yes, Toyota learned some non-admittance techniques. Anyone know what a Service Pack is? An [deleted] set of bug fixes. I guess “Bug Fixes 2” just doesn’t sound as good. Perhaps Toyota has simply done a better job of convincing their customers that their service bulletins (rework) are a service to customers.
In the January 9, 2006 issue of Forbes magazine there is a “Special Japan Advertising Section” which features the U.S. Ambassador to Japan calling the U.S.-Japan relationship “a model of what two countries can do when they share common values” and also the heads of 12 leading Japanese companies touting the virtues and bright futures of their firms.
One of these PR pieces is titled “A Dream Car for a Better Globe” and features Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe who states, “Imagine that we produced only one defective car out of several million… Most people would say that’s astoundingly good quality control. But if you’re the person who buys that one car, from your perspective the defect ratio looks like 100%.” At this point, “one in a million” defects is still a distant dream for Toyota.
Toyota has 2,411,117 opportunities for kaizen, but do they recognize this? The danger in non-admittance, or calling a defect a “service bulletin”, is that you no longer consider it a priority problem. It can seem to be “under control” and fall of the kaizen radar. To the many thousands of customers affected by these recalls, they are still inconvenient and even dangerous defects. It’s no time to be complacent.

2 Comments

  1. Andy Marshall

    January 31, 2006 - 10:34 pm

    Have you considered that the propensity for legal action that seems rife in the USA may have something to do with this?
    AndyM

  2. Darius Mehri

    February 9, 2006 - 12:04 pm

    According to my experience, Japanese companies usually tweak out the bugs in their products in the Japanese markets first before they sell them in America so I doubt legal action has anything do with it.
    Darius Mehri