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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Toyota: "There's been a lot of talk..."

I just finished reading a full-page advertisement by Toyota, explaining the recall of some of its vehicles: RAV4, Corolla, Matrix, Avalon, Camry, Highlander, Tundra, and Sequoia.

"Folksy", informal advertisements made by huge corporations always seem suspect to me. I smile inside and try to translate the simple "facts" of the advertisement into what the corporate suits are really thinking.

Here's the actual words of the advertisement, with my translation and comments in parenthesis. (No thanks necessary. I do this as a public service and to drum up traffic for my blog.)

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Tri-City Herald, Sunday, February 7, 2010
Section A, Page 4

There's been a lot of talk (tweets, email, facebook, blogs, rants, cussing, jokes, and threats of liability suits) about the recall.

Here are the facts (translation: statements considered benign by our 129 lawyers and legal assistants) for our customers (Actually, we're writing this to the investors and stock owners that really drive all our decisions.)

Over the past few days (Editor's note: The recall was issued October 6, 2009...a casual search on Google.com shows a news article about the problem, dated September 30, 2009. That's not a "few days"...that's FOUR MONTHS! That's at least 120 DAYS!), there has been a lot of speculation (and believe it or not, some of the speculation has actually come from people other than our own CEO's and dealers!) about our sticking accelerator pedal recall. Our message to Toyota owners (translation: investors and stock owners) is this - if you are not experiencing any issues with your accelerator pedal (and you probably will, otherwise we wouldn't be spending a Camry-load of cash for these advertisements), we are confident that your vehicle is safe to drive (as long as the accelerator pedal does not stick, making your vehicle unsafe to drive). If your accelerator pedal becomes harder to depress than normal (and it probably will) or slower to return (and it probably will), please contact your dealer without delay (as in, "Pull off the road, NOW! and call AAA!").

At Toyota, we take this issue (translation: potential for criminal and civil liability charges) very seriously, but I want to make sure our customers (translation: investors and stock owners) understand that this situation is rare (so rare that we have to publish a full-page advertisement in every major newspaper to reach every single person that can read English) and generally doesn't occur suddenly ("suddenly" is very relative, you understand?). In the instances where it does occur, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes (panic might be a helpful element in this situation).

1. We're starting to send letters this weekend to owners involved in the recall to schedule an appointment at their dealer. (Editor's note: Then why are you putting full-page ads in every newspaper?)

2. Dealerships have extended their hours - some of them working 24/7 - to fix your vehicle as quickly as possible (This actually is the best thing that has happened for our dealerships in a long time...think of the potential customer volume!).

3. Trained technicians have begun making repairs (as opposed to the untrained engineers, vendors and buyers who supplied us with the faulty parts in the first place).

We've halted production of these models this week (Let's see...at the Kentucky plant alone, with 400,000 vehicles rolling off the line every year, losing one week of production means...7692 vehicles that don't get assembled. That's almost 2% of our production...yeah, we can afford that.) to focus fully on fixing this problem for the vehicles that are on the road. (Editor's note: Does that mean that this week, all your floor workers are sitting in focus groups, discussing the problem? What are your workers doing this week if they aren't assembling Camry's?)

Our entire organization of 172,000 North American employees and dealerships personnel has been mobilized. (Editor's note: This is a blatant mis-use of the English language. "Mobilize"? Soldiers are "mobilized". Red Cross rescue teams are "mobilized". "Mobilize" means to MOVE! "Mobilize" would mean that your employees and dealers have booked a flight to Japan and are gathering together into huge work groups that MOVE! You haven't mobilized your workers...you've "directed" or "re-organized" or "sent a memo to"...anything but MOBILIZE!) And we're redoubling ("redoubling", implying we've already doubled our efforts and it didn't work) our quality control efforts (translation: we've fired our design and purchasing staff) across the company.

Ensuring your safety is our highest priority (Uh, actually, it's turning a profit...unfortunately, unsafe products eventually cost us a lot of money, although in the short run they work pretty good...look at China's export program!). I will continue to update you with accurate and timely information (Editor's note: Does that mean more full-page advertisements, or just letters to dealers and owners?) about the status of the recall in the days and weeks ("Days and weeks"...as in "past few days"? Just how many is "a few". Judging by the rapid response you've shown already - 120 days - "the days and weeks" probably will equal a year or so...right?) ahead.

Sincerely (You understand that all letters must end with "sincerely", don't you? It doesn't really mean too much.),

Jim Lentz (and all 172,000 employees and dealers who have been "mobilized")

President and Chief Operating Officer
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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Read the facts:

http://www.toyota.com/about/careers/tmmk/tour.html

"Now more than 400,000 vehicles roll off the assembly line annually thanks to the efforts and dedication of more than 7,000 team members."

"Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) in Georgetown, Kentucky is now Toyota's largest production facility outside of Japan."

"Toyota is justifiably proud of this technically advanced 7.92 million sq. ft. manufacturing complex that has infused new life into the commonwealth of Kentucky by creating over 20,000 jobs including those at TMMK and throughout our growing community of suppliers."

http://www.toyota.com/about/our_business

"Toyota Reports January Sales
February 2, 2010, Torrance, Calif. - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today reported January sales of 98,796 vehicles, a decrease of 8.7 percent over last January, on a daily selling rate basis."

http://www.toyota.com/about/our_business/our_numbers

Direct Employment, 35,838
Indirect Employment, 165,9581
Direct Investment, $17.4 Billion
Vehicle Production, $1,117,511
Purchasing, $29.9 Billion
Toyota, Lexus & Scion Dealers, 1,502
Vehicle Sales, $2,217,662

http://www.toyota.com/about/news/product/2010/02/05-1-safetyrecall.html

Certain 2009-2010 RAV4
Certain 2009-2010 Corolla
2009-2010 Matrix
2005-2010 Avalon
Certain 2007-2010 Camry
Certain 2010 Highlander
2007-2010 Tundra
2008-2010 Sequoia

"In the event that a driver experiences an accelerator pedal that sticks in a partial open throttle position or returns slowly to idle position, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes. The brakes should not be pumped repeatedly because it could deplete vacuum assist, requiring stronger brake pedal pressure. The vehicle should be driven to the nearest safe location, the engine shut off and a Toyota dealer contacted for assistance."

"Separately from the recall for sticking accelerator pedals, Toyota is in the process of recalling vehicles to address rare instances in which floor mats have trapped the accelerator pedal in certain Toyota and Lexus models (announced November 25, 2009), and is already notifying customers about how it will fix this issue. In the case of vehicles covered by both recalls, it is Toyota's intention to remedy both at the same time."

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8758163

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=8708911