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Auto Stalled

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson describes car manufacturer Toyota’s recent fall from grace and why its craftmanship has suffered in the face of expansion.

“A friend of mine once had a Toyota that wouldn’t die. The odometer had only a dim recollection of passing 100,000 miles, the body was dinged, the paint was faded and the interior was worn, but the thing just kept running. He finally parked it at the airport, removed the plates and walked away. But that was more than 20 years ago, long before Toyota became the world’s biggest car manufacturer. Now the gas pedal doesn’t work right on some of the company’s models and the brakes don’t work right on others. A brand name that once meant ‘indestructible’ has become a punch line for late-night jokes. The company’s stock has lost 20 percent of its value over the past few weeks, helped along Wednesday by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s warning that the U.S. owners of nearly 6 million Toyota and Lexus models with the accelerator problem shouldn’t even try to drive the cars. LaHood quickly withdrew his doomsday alert, explaining that all he meant to say was that people shouldn’t delay getting them fixed. Not what I’d call a message of reassurance.The obvious lesson for Toyota: Be careful what you wish for. Toyota set out to conquer the world. In succeeding, the company grew so fast that its vaunted mastery of quality control — the craftsmanship and care that made people want to buy a Toyota in the first place — couldn’t keep up.”


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