Michael Hiltzik, an LA Times columnist and victim of Toyota mechanical problems, recently penned an enlightening article on Toyota that argues the company's mechanical problems are exacerbated by a problematic corporate culture. Hiltzik submits that Toyota has been aware of the potentially fatal acceleration issue for at least nine years. Rather than addressing it then in the most aggressive and effective way possible, the company pursued a familiar policy of, 'denying the problem exists, implying motorist error and simply hoping the issue will go away.'

This is in stark contrast to the way Johnson & Johnson famously handled a very similar situation that was lethal for its customers, the Chicago Tylenol murders. Despite the fact that  the tampered Tylenol was relegated to only the Chicago area, as soon as the company discovered the problem it removed all of the inventory from every shelf in the nation, 31 million bottles in total. Unlike Toyota, Johnson & Johnson was looking out for its customers first, at its own great expense. It caused the company pain in the short run but inspired unwavering customer loyalty in the long run.

Toyota seems much more myopic than Johnson & Johnson. As Hiltzik writes, “what's most disturbing about Toyota's handling of a potentially lethal flaw in its engineering is that it seems focused on avoiding a PR problem more than addressing its operational problem.” The bottom line is Toyota acts like it couldn't care less about its customers' safety and this is exactly how you kill one of the most powerful brands in the world.


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