The recent Toyota recall of cars by the millions created a marketing opportunity for everyone including Toyota. How do you cash in on the opportunity? Easy...
Toyota recalls lots of cars all the time for minor tweaks and just-in-case changes. The latest recall created huge publicity in America because it was about safety and was a chance for Americans to denigrate foreign cars to the advantage of local products. Is the negative publicity justified?
Look at some of the companies cashing in on the negative publicity.
General Motors is offering a US$1000 bonus to help people swap from Toyotas to GM vehicles. GM is not advertising the fact that some GM cars are manufactured by Toyota, that they are simply Toyotas with a different badge. Some Americans will end up swapping from a Toyota Matrix to the Pontiac Vibe only to discover they have exactly the same car and have to go through the same safety recall.
GM discontinued the Pontiac Vibe when they shut down their Pontiac brand but are still selling the cars through their guaranteed second hand system. Consider how bad things are for GM when they cannot compete against Toyota even when they are selling Toyotas.
GM recalled the Vibe and replaced the accelerator cable that may occasionally stick. The GM safety recall says they will also replace the removable mat that may jamb the accelerator. The GM safety recall says only six crashes are reported as a result of accelerator problems and none produced injury or death. They do not point to the time when Americans purchased only American cars and 65000 Americans died each year because of really bad design in American cars, in some cases deliberate.
Americans were upset that 58,260 Americans died across the 20 years of the Vietnam war but did not mind GM and Ford killing that many people every year. GM and Ford are still around doing the same stuff. Would you really want to change from Toyota to GM? No, but it is a great marketing opportunity for GM and the media in America need this story to fill their newspapers and television shows. The media in America will beat up Toyota because the truth is boring and rumours create higher ratings. Large slices of the media in Australia and elsewhere will beat up Toyota because they just take American media and rebadge it as Australian.
Ford copied GM and introduced a $1000 changeover incentive for Toyota owners.
Compare the Toyota safety issue to the Ford Pinto safety issue. Ford decided your life is worth only $200,000 and 180 deaths per year is far cheaper than adding an $11 safety barrier to their Pinto. The deaths would cost them only $43 million while the fixing the car would cost $137 million. Ford did not change their mind when a jury awarded $2.5 million or when a jury awarded $128 million. Only federal government legislation made Ford do anything and Ford managed to delay the legislation 8 years. Toyota are embarrassed they did not detect the problem during initial testing while Ford plans their safety issues years in advance.
For years I drove company cars and two of those cars were Fords. The first Ford, an old design, was a lemon and a dangerous lemon. The car had to go in for repair every two or three weeks and in most cases the car came out with exactly the same problems despite large scale replacement of parts. The car would stall under strong acceleration leading to near misses when changing lanes, overtaking, and going through intersections. I avoided death in part because the car was in for repairs most of the time and I was able to use another car.
The second car to give me a problem was a Mitsubishi that had an engine design fault fixed for free by the factory and not a safety issue.
The only other lemon was another Ford and the issue was one of suspension plus tires plus excess weight. The car was too heavy for that small carrying capacity. It would carry little more than my Honda but weighed twice as much. The Ford advertised a
brand new design yet it used the same unstable horse cart rear suspension form previous models. The tires were so bad that on a good road in perfect weather they could not grip the road at 40kph (25mph). On my first morning commute in the brand new Ford I travelled at 40kph along a road I had travelled many times at 80kph (50mph) in many European and Japanese cars including several very low cost cars. The brand new Ford was twice as expensive as the cheapest competitor, was far less comfortable, and skidded across the road at just 40kph.
I will never buy or drive a Ford again. The worst of the minor problems with current Toyotas is trivial compared to the fatal Ford.
Despite the many reasons to not buy Ford, ford sales increased 43% in America as a result of the Toyota recall and Ford slipped past GM into number one place for a month. The one advantage Ford has is that it does not sell rebadged Toyotas. Ford could use an advertising campaign along the lines of:
The rubbish we sell with the Ford badge slapped on front is not from Toyota
There are software companies trying to boost their products by implying that Toyota would not have the problem if they used software product x. Most of the information is unrelated to the truth but some of the marketing material is well worded and will suck some people in.
Training, books, etc.
You can sell just about anything related to management or quality or decision making or marketing or
thinking outside the box based on the Toyota safety recall.
The Internet Marketing Guru idiots will tell you to mention the Toyota incident in a blog or a tweet and that will somehow sell. Blogs and tweets are already saturated and people are moving on. Adding a common on Toyota to your bleet will not help. Register at this site and leave a comment about what you want to sell before you damage your reputation with another meaningless reference.
Toyota had a real chance to improve their public image when they made their first announcement. They still have a good chance. They just have to..., well that is something I would spoil if I rattled on about it here because some other car maker will read it then jump in and beat Toyota.
Unfortunately Toyota will probably turn to marketing people for help and the marketing people will commission surveys to show the best action is whatever the marketing people can make the most profit from selling. Life will be really boring for Toyota owners.
I admit a little bit of a bias toward Toyota because they have produced a good line of cars for Australia. They might not be first with safety features but the are never last and are usually ahead of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. I have owned some Toyotas and driven some others as company cars. A Toyota maintained as described in the factory handbook is, at 6 years old, as reliable as a 6 year old Volvo, a brand new GM and more reliable than a brand new Ford or KIA.
In Australia and equivalent parts of North America you could use the Toyota predictability as a weapon.
I do not know how Toyota measures up in really cold parts of the world. Canada has long stretched of extreme cold. How do Toyotas compare to other brands in Canada?
I do not know how Toyota measures up in parts of the world where people routinely skip services. Lots of Americans mention companies that do not put their cars in for service. They buy new cars each year and that is it. Car makers have to design for longer service intervals. In cities in small countries, a car might be used for only 10000 kilometres (6000 miles) per year. In large countries with people commuting from distant suburbs then travelling to cities a long way away, 30000 kilometres (20000 miles) per year is common. A travelling sales person might cover 100000 kilometres (60000 miles) per year. Which cars break when left without service?
In my experience it is Ford among the main brands sold in Australia followed by a bunch of Italian brands but the Italian brands are relatively rare and the Italian brands are often left without proper service because the service people cannot get parts or the parts are too expensive. Some Italian brands could advertise that they are safer than Toyota because you will never get to drive them anywhere.
Cash in by relating your product to the Toyota incident but keep away from slinging mud at Toyota. When you devalue Toyota, you devalue your reference to Toyota.
Give your prospects something of value. I just gave you value by helping you avoid the mud slinging common in some of the blog references to Toyota. If your reference to Toyota sounds just like an advertisement, people will switch off. Instead of just mentioning the benefits of your product, provide people with a benefit from reading your page. Buying your product is not a benefit. They have to get the benefit in the page then they are more likely to follow a link to another page to look at your product.
Talk from experience. The Toyota incident is, by itself, a useless reference. You have to link to personal experience. I have experience driving over a million miles in many brands of car, including Toyota, to the point where I am occasionally asked to give evidence in court or write training material for people in the trade. I tend to not do that because there are areas where I am more of an expert. The point is I can relate to the incident as a current Toyota owner and as person involved in other relevant areas. I can relate to the Toyota incident from more angles than a person who only every sat in some else's Toyota or a person who has only read a few newspaper articles on the incident. You need a strong relating point to stand out from the endless bleets about the incident.
This Toyota safety recall is a goldmine for a lot of businesses and most are ignoring it. Of those who are doing something, a large percentage are going the wrong way for long term success.