Empire of robustness started to fall into parts. Toyota constructed its brand identity based on high quality production techniques, problem free cars and reliability and ignoring status value, a design philosophy, increasing interior material quality. Until last couple of weeks, being problem free was enough to sell millions of cars every year. However, a tiny problem with gas pedal was adequate to prepare a huge domino effect on Toyota.
In any aspect of life, you need to divide your assets into different places to reduce the risks. They are doing this in stock exchange; investors buy different shares and in case of emergency their loss is minimized. If they invest everything on one paper, they might have huge return but any fluctuations will destroy everything.
Toyota did something similar to investing all your wealth into one share, and they avoided reducing the risk by separating them. When you think about Toyota, you will probably think about Japanese good prices, good quality and dull looking car. Toyota never focused on design, status icon, product image as much as they focused on problem free. What they have done is a very good thing but they should have focused on other aspects to strength their brand image.
Let’s think about Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. Alfa Rome has a very bad reputation for breaking down, nowadays break down issues reduced but that’s a part of Alfa Romeo. However, this does not prevent people to buy Alfa Romeo. I would definitely buy a MiTo instead of idiotic looking Toyota Yaris. MiTo has the passion, design and Italian style, with potential problems. But those other assets of Alfa Romeo’s brand image motivating people to purchase an Alfa Romeo and ignoring the failing fact! And people still buying Alfa Romeo and they could emerge emotional relationship with their car but with Toyota it is impossible. The only relationship which you can make is the green digital clock! Toyota ignored the emotional part of marketing!
Mercedes suffered a worse problem in 2004 with electronic braking system SBC. It was an innovative electronic braking pedal which works totally electronic. And it broke down! Suddenly, in some cars it did not wish to slow down the car. Mercedes faced huge profit loss and recalled many cars. But did this destroy Mercedes totally? Of course not, because Mercedes had other attributes associated to brand. Like; status value, smooth riding quality, high quality interior, eye catching design. All these assets helped Mercedes to recover more easily and people never forgot the SBC problem totally.
So, Toyota does not have any strong assets to sustain its brand image and recover easily. They could invest on advertisements and PR campaigns heavily to recover all these. But they should revise their policy about manufacturing cars! As I can see from their green digital clock, they treat car as a calculator and they ignore the fact that people might associate different attributes to a car and those attributes can save the brand in case of emergency.
Pictures are from;
Alfa Romeo Website