Thursday, January 28, 2010

Customer Satisfaction

Toyota Recall

There are a lot of marketing concepts that are relevant to Toyota's latest recall, but I will just focus on customer satisfaction, which a huge issue at stake right now for Toyota and their customers. For those who don't already, last week Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles because of faulty gas pedals that would stick while driving, causing unintended acceleration or runaway cars. This is the largest recall in the company's history. It was initiated by a fatal crash back in August of 2009 that killed four people in a Lexus ES 350 that sped off the road due to a stuck gas pedal. Toyota is very close to a fix for the problem and will immediately begin servicing recalled vehicles once the solution is fully developed.

Kotler defines customer satisfaction as "the extent to which a product's perceived performance matches a buyer's expectations." Clearly none of Toyota's customers were expecting this recall when they purchased their cars. In fact, Toyota had an outstanding reputation for making quality vehicles. My dad helped me buy an '09 Corolla last year, and we went with Toyota based on this excellent reputation. Many Toyota owners, including myself feel very disappointed and angry with the company, because we bought our vehicles based on expectations that were no longer true.

Besides fixing the recalled problem, Toyota is doing something that I think will mitigate their customer's dissatisfaction. They are apologizing, taking full responsibility, and even explaining why the gas pedal error could have occurred. The company confessed that its focus on global growth caused it to lose sight of its prior quality controls. A spokesman for Toyota said "Our president, Akio Toyoda, has said that expansion may have occurred to the extent where it is difficult for us to keep an eye on the ball." Toyota is going to have a tough time regaining its standing as one of the top automakers of quality cars in the world, but they are getting off to a good start by promptly fixing the recall and taking ownership for their mistakes.

John Gardner
Section E

Here's the full story in the Washington Post

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