Saturday, January 30, 2010

Murdering Cars. Oops. Gomen ne.

I was stunned this morning while watching ABC World News Tonight. First, there was a story in which ABC did not have David Muir or any other reporter mugging for the camera and obscuring the person being interviewed. Then, having barely recovered from that unprecedented event, I saw the head of Toyota---Toyoda Akio---come out of hiding and apologize (sorta) for the now worldwide Toyota recall.

In the report, ABC cruelly showed a clip from a few days ago in which the ABC crew visited Toyota's Japan HQ. After the Guard Man(s) failed at throwing them off of the property,* some fellow in a suit and a mask came out and sorta apologized sincerely for the recall trouble.

After a rude, sarcastic remark about that incident, ABC showed interviews with several experts on corporate screw-ups. Toyota was criticized for not having top executives go public immediately with an explanation on what happened and what was being done; for being disengaged; and for not understanding "the emotional nature of the US market."

"The emotional nature of the US market!?" Good lord, Fujiwara Masahiko's dignified brain must be rolling in its grave! Aren't folks in the US Mr. Spock-like logical, while in Japan folks are all warm, fuzzy, "wet," and basically operating in a society in which human relations are all based on emotion without logic? Doesn't Toyota have some sort of international culture class in which management can study how the Japanese are different? How could they misunderstand their largest market?

Or couldn't Toyoda-shacho have learned from what happened in unique Japan a few years ago to a foreign company that did not understand the (emotional?) Japanese market and failed to take appropriate action quickly?:

Japanese culture and its scapegoat-seeking media often make bad times far worse for companies compromised by events. But for foreign firms less familiar with the country's societal norms, such problems can easily spiral completely out of control...

...They had no clue that their products would soon be referred to as "murdering elevators" on the streets, online and in the Japanese media. And they could perhaps never have expected that — despite being the world's No. 2 elevator maker — their sales in Japan would come to a sudden halt...

...along with the public's desire to know why the tragedy occurred at all, another key question was whether Schindler's elevators might be inherently dangerous. Japan Times

Will we see raids by teams of 321,002 police officers on Toyota's headquarters carrying out boxes of documents (and girly magazines?) for show? Will we see Toyoda-shacho fly to the US and other countries in person like the head of Schindler did?

Or has Mr. Toyoda become Western?:

"I would say that our reaction was typically Western, especially an Anglo-Saxon type of reaction," said Schindler..."

Or could the unthinkable be true:

..."Japan's famed quality- control is a myth, but like any good myth, many people believe it. When the myth is shattered, scandal results."
[Mark D. West][Same JT article]

I could paste that entire article here and substitute Toyota for Schindler and the US for Japan and it would in many ways match Toyota's actions.

This is the sort of stuff that can cause one to become all befuddled. I can only assume that Toyota is operating on the well-known in Japan fact that folks/companies in the US don't apologize or accept any responsibility for anything because they will be sued. This is known because US auto insurance policies warn against such statements, and as we all know, the coldly logical "dry" Americans run their lives according to insurance policies.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the ABC report at their site. A video (in Japanese) and story (in English) of Toyoda's apology is here.

*The ABC crew was thrown out of a dealership in Tokyo in that earlier report---broadcast a day or two ago.

Edited at 1130


  1. Our Woman in Abiko used to work at Toyota UK and was highly impressed by their constant memos about turning off unused lights and not wasting paper etc etc. There weren't any instructions about not flying in execs first class for games of golf on the company tab at St Andrews, funnily enough.

  2. Well, to be fair, Toyota is know for being a "green" company. Get it? Lights off=green, golf courses and greens....never mind.