Cousin Roy called last night. We chatted about family, weather, and work — the usual topics of conversation. Roy's two brothers died last year, a few months apart — very sad news. Roy works for a Toyota dealership in Kentucky. More sad news. Or maybe not. Roy said that he's sold 25 cars this month, and he thinks people will be surprised when Toyota's March sales numbers are released.
Roy even sold a Prius to his ex-wife, who asked him if it was a safe car. He told her if it wasn't safe, he wouldn't sell it to her. I know what you're thinking, but he also told her (jokingly, I think) he'd definitely sell it to his first ex-wife if it wasn't safe.
All joking aside, it will be interesting to see how Toyota fares in the coming months. While March sales could be very good, they likely will be a result of the company's unprecedented — for Toyota — incentives, particularly for repeat buyers.
An article in the Detroit News quoted James Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, who said at a March 30 conference cosponsored by the National Automobile Dealers Association and consulting firm HIS Global Insight, "Our challenge down the road is going to be with conquest (new) buyers." Attracting young and first-time buyers, and those who own other brands, will be a "struggle" for Toyota, he said.
As reported in the Detroit News article, "in Japan [March 30], Toyota President Akio Toyoda said a new, high-level global quality committee will take steps to improve communications within the company about safety issues as part of an effort to restore customer confidence in Toyota vehicles. The committee, which includes executives from Toyota's major markets and divisions, met [March 30] for the first time.
"'We discussed several things: an especially important subject was the decision-making process for recalls and other safety matters,' Toyoda said at a news briefing. 'We agreed to build a framework to ensure that regional input receives full consideration in that process.'
"Poor communication between Toyota's U.S. operations and the company's headquarters in Japan has been cited in the automaker's slow response to reports of unintended acceleration of its vehicles, the main cause for the recalls.
"Toyoda said the chief quality officers in each region will now participate in making decisions about safety issues and recalls."
This is a good move, but why is it even necessary? Why wasn't the company doing this all along? Good communication that involves all regions and levels within an organization is simply a best business practice. If you don't have it, you're setting yourself up for potential problems that snowball as issues are ignored.
All you have to do is read the article "The Prius can take owners on a wild ride" published a year ago on Westword.com to see what a difference good communication, which involves active listening, could have made for Toyota.
It's been an expensive lesson for the automaker, one from which we all can learn. Effective communication can help businesses overcome obstacles and succeed. It also can help relationships. Perhaps if Cousin Roy and his exes had communicated better with each other … who knows?
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