My friend Tom has been saying this for some years now: “There’s Toyota….there’s a big gap…and then there’s everyone else”. I have to agree. I’ve owned a half-dozen Toyotas and perhaps 10-15 other brands of car, including high-end marques such as BWW and Acura. I currently drive a 2010 Subaru Forester. So much for full disclosure and references.

There’s a reason Toyota is the world’s largest car-maker as well as the top-rated for customer satisfaction (including its flagship brand, Lexus). The reason became clear again today when the company announced a temporary suspension of production of its most popular models in order to deal with a recall. It turns out that on some rare occasions, the gas pedal can become sticky and refuse to return to the off position. Rather than just try to deal with the problem under normal recall protocols, Toyota has chosen to actually suspend vehicle production and redirect the new parts intended for the production line to the recall process instead, in order to ensure it gets done ASAP. Man that’s class!

Every company will have recalls; since most parts for just about all brands are produced by a handful of sub-vendors, it’s inevitable. But how the recall is handled is key, since it represents a major messaging opportunity to customers; a chance to show what the company is made of and who comes first in its thinking. Bravo Toyota. I have a chilling recollection of the scandals surrounding American car companies in the 1970’s, who debated and statistically analyzed which would be cheaper…fix exploding cars, or pay compensation to the victims. And we wonder why they’re in trouble.

Companies that fail to put the customer first…will inevitably fail.

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