We didn't wake up expecting to be harping (carping?) on GM to such an extent today, and damned if Toyota doesn't deserve a well-executed, spinning tsukuri to the shizenhontai at some point. But we nonetheless were bound to point out comments by John Smith, GM's veep of global product planning made at the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit this week, as published by CNN.
Smith told reporters Toyota's reputation for matchless quality is being tarnished by the rising number of cars the company has recalled of late. (For the record, Toyota has recalled 978,000 cars this month, while GM recalled 2 million vehicles in April of this year, followed by 804,000 last month.) He also ponders whether the media will cover Toyota's failings as strenuously as they do GM's. We ponder whether anything could be more untoward than a high-ranking auto executive jamming fists full of sour grapes into journalists' mouths? (Possibly those journalists stuffing corporate shrimp into their own maws, but that's another story.)
Mr. Smith should (after washing the pulp from his hands) acknowledge that Toyota's shiny, happy reputation isn't really about perfection, it's about value. By improving its overall quality ratings, GM may have dragged itself up to the baseline of what consumers expect in 2005 — but it's not quite Christmas morning for the company. It still has a long way to go before it can call itself a peer of Toyota's in the fit-and-finish department — a fact, it seems, executives would rather commit hari kiri than acknowledge (though, maybe in the wee, sleepless hours...). As long as consumers believe Toyotas and Lexii offer a better value than Chevys and Buicks, GM will feel that disadvantage as a sharp pain in the hip pocket. How do they change it? Build fewer nameplates, bring resale value up, build fewer cars (yes, we understand the union-contracted capacity problem). Easier said than done, right? Then execs should shy from sweating Toyota's brand advantage and pretend every one of their own cars is an advertisement for itself, not just a contractual obligation. Put cars on the table that people want to eat, er, buy. You know what we mean. Jeez, do we have to spell it out?
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