Here’s few quick items we didn’t get around to writing full posts on. To begin it’s hard to say too much about Toyota this week.
- The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story today (Feb 6) on Toyota’s response to the crisis (A Crisis Made in Japan ). The gist of its argument is that Toyota’s reaction is pretty much standard for how Japanese corporations handle these kinds of crises:
It is not surprising that Toyota’s response has been dilatory and inept, because crisis management in Japan is grossly undeveloped. Over the past two decades, I cannot think of one instance where a Japanese company has done a good job managing a crisis. The pattern is all too familiar, typically involving slow initial response, minimizing the problem, foot dragging on the product recall, poor communication with the public about the problem and too little compassion and concern for consumers adversely affected by the product. Whether it’s exploding televisions, fire-prone appliances, tainted milk or false labeling, in case after case companies have shortchanged their customers by shirking responsibility until the accumulated evidence forces belated disclosure and recognition of culpability. The costs of such negligence are low in Japan where compensation for product liability claims is mostly derisory or non-existent.
- NPR had an interesting report on how this is all playing in Japan (Recall Shakes Japan’s Confidence In Toyota, Feb 5). It mentions in passing that some in Japan seem awfully suspicious that this happening to Toyota after teh US government acquired an interest in GM’s long term success. I am not sufficiently into conspiracy theories to chalk this all up to a government plot but I do think it is fair to say that Ray LaHood would not be shooting off his mouth telling everyone to stop driving their Chevy or Ford.
- NPR has also had some continuing reports on how Toyota’s dealers are coping with the recall, largely by checking in with Robert Boch, a Toyota dealer in suburban Boston (Toyota Repairs Costly For Dealers, Drivers, Feb 5). I’ve enjoyed these in part because Mr. Boch has an outrageous Boston accent and because his dad Ernie is just seared in my memory from childhood. One thing is clear from listening to him: If Toyota gets through this, they are going to owe a lot to Mr Boch and other Toyota dealers. The dealers are rising to the occasion to treat their customers right. It seems that the local guys on the ground are trying harder to preserve the Toyota brand than Toyota is.
- How would you price a used Toyota? They have quickly become a lot like sub-prime backed securities were a year ago. It’s hard to say where the market is, when there is no market. But some are trying: Kelley Blue Book, NADA Guide trim used Toyota values, Automotive News, Feb 5.
People who have been reading this blog for a while know that I like writing about the problems AT&T has had with the iPhone. Gady does not. Guess which one of us uses an iPhone.
- The current issue of BusinessWeek is about AT&T (AT&T’s iPhone Mess, Feb 3). Among the usual litany of complaints, it discusses how customers have been using social networking tools to try and force the company to change.
- On a related note, the Toronto Globe and Mail had an interesting observation about Canadian favorite Research in Motion (RIM’s smart-phone advantage, Feb 2):
When Research In Motion executives made the decision many years ago to route much of the e-mail traffic on BlackBerrys through RIM’s own servers, they probably weren’t thinking about a future in which everyone carries around a mobile, bandwidth-hogging computer. The company was focused on how to give business and government clients a fast and secure means of sending and receiving sensitive information.
But as the smart-phone market – once populated almost entirely by RIM’s business customers – shifts to a consumer focus, RIM’s strategy is starting to look good again for an entirely different reason. At a time when wireless carriers are beginning to fret about all the bandwidth that devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhones and the upcoming iPad will eat up, RIM’s phones give them fewer headaches.
Finally, the Globe and Mail had another story about something we have written about in the past, luxury watches (Hard times for luxury watch makers, Feb 1). In a nutshell, supply chains and efficiency also matter for pricey time pieces:
When the financial crisis and recession hit, retailers found themselves vastly overstocked with watches and stopped taking supplies from the manufacturers (most watch makers do not own retail outlets). Now that the destocking process appears to have finished, retailers are taking new supplies, though they are favouring the big, well-known brands such as Rolex over the smaller brands, Mr. Busser says.
To survive and thrive, the big industry names will have to keep cutting costs, and perhaps production, and maintain tight relationships with their retailers, industry executives say. The small workshops that charge $50,000 or more for timepieces will have to offer highly creative designs made from the finest materials, and avoid making watches unless they have money-down buyers.