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The Toyota Airbag Recall and the Dangers of Corporate Culture

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 11/05/2015 | 11:20 AM | Categories: Current Affairs

Although the Toyota airbag recall is nowhere near over, there are already many lessons learned. Chief among them is the need for a corporate culture with checks and balances.

Although there were number of deaths associated with the malfunctioning airbags, Toyota did not initiate a widespread recall. After working hard for decades to be a company that is synonymous with quality, it seemed that Toyota did not want to accept that their product was defective. Although the airbag was a product from a sub-supplier, Toyota had quality checks for these vendors.  It appears that there was a belief in Toyota that a qualitative failure was impossible.

This same kind of mentality was common among U.S. car manufacturers prior to Japan’s push into the U.S. market. When Japanese cars debuted, American cars had quality issues consumers could see. There was so much pride in the workmanship among manufacturers that defects were not addressed. Is it any wonder that Americans were swayed by lower prices and higher quality from Japan?

Toyota seems to have that same mindset. After so many successful years, the company has forgotten what made it great in the first place.

Although Toyota has finally stepped up to recall all the defective units, there was certainly some pressure needed from Washington, D.C. Perhaps this kind of pressure was necessary so that Toyota did not have to admit a major failing. Unlike in the U.S., where a car manufacturer would throw the sub-contractor (Takata) under the bus, Toyota was unwilling or unable to do the same.

Hopefully, Toyota will learn from this recall. The company needs to re-examine its culture and put quality back at the top of its agenda. Failing this, Toyota might lose market share to competitors.

While even a company that is focused on quality will have an occasional recall, how that recall is handled can really make a difference in its brand perception.



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About Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is program director of the Reverse Logistics department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has over twenty-five years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He holds a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA. Dr. Gordon has spent more than 14 years teaching reverse logistics, transportation, project management, and human resources. He has published articles on reverse logistics; supply chain management; project management; human resources; education, and complexity. He has also published four books on Reverse Logistics Management; Complexity and Project Management; Virtual Project Management Organizations, and Successful Program Management..

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