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  • Posted by: Andrew Martschenko on Monday, May 24 2010 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

    On Thursday, Toyota announced a partnership with Tesla motors. Toyota will be investing US $50 million into Tesla, as well as providing engineering and production systems for the development of electric vehicles.

    The announcement sends a strong signal that the global automaker has a vested, long-term commitment to driving the industry.

    Good leaders take the time to reflect on their mistakes and respond with a strategy that not only protects their position, but also carves out new spaces. If anything, Toyota’s slow public response to addressing highly visible product flaws has served as a catalyst to take real, demonstrative action.

    With this agreement, both companies win. Tesla gets the necessary capital, structure and visibility while Toyota has an opportunity to inject a fresh jolt of entrepreneurial spirit. For Toyota, in particular, this arrangement should have a continued calming effect with its most vocal critics even if some may see this as a quick fix to a lagging public relations problem.

    And yet, the partnership is not without its own set of challenges—the first being cultural. Toyota operates with a geographically dispersed, top-down, command and control culture while the Silicon-Valley based, Tesla, has a more flexible, innovative approach. Both companies will need to find middle ground to make the alliance work.

    Additionally, the category shift is still in its early stages. Every major carmaker is focused on coming up with a cleaner technology solution and many are even beginning to bring their early ideas to market. The stakes are high and Toyota will need to work hard to differentiate its brand.

    What is important to remember here is Toyota’s track record. The brand has held up to intense media and government scrutiny, and as its success with the Prius attests, when Toyota is focused on something, it has a history of making it work. The Toyota brand and its products may be slightly tarnished, but if the organization executes this correctly, Toyota will have effectively turned a negative into a positive—and that is what leaders and strong global brands do.

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  • Posted by: Andy Bateman on Friday, February 5 2010 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

    While stuck accelerators or failing brakes on a car are serious defects that can cause mortal injury, the whole Toyota recall has been suspiciously blown out of proportion by the U.S. media.

    I say “suspicious” because to me, it smacks of outright nationalism. There are car recalls all the time, for various incidental or consequential matters–ask any car owner. And when the U.S. motor industry is largely bankrupt and/ or languishing, the negative and almost gleeful lash out at Toyota doesn’t seem cute in the slightest.

    After all, isn’t Toyota the world's most successful car company and one of the world’s strongest brands? Hasn’t the car brand beaten the U.S. car industry into submission through its quality of production, persistent, continuous innovation, and great customer focus?

    It’s one thing to be patriotic, but attacking Toyota like this is an exercise in pure deflection. Let’s remember, Toyota also produces a lot of cars here.

    We may be having a slow news week but this kind of hype has to stop. It’s dangerous.

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