The Wall Street Journal reports today that Toyota is unsurprisingly in some seriously hot water.

But in the 2010 study, Toyota was rated below average, falling to 21st place from seventh the year before, and trailed several U.S. nameplates it has traditionally bested, including Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Lincoln.

Toyota’s reputation was damaged when some of their cars were found to have dangerous defects, including gas pedals that stick and cause cars to uncontrollably accelerate. The company was slow to act, thus causing even greater damage to a previously blameless name. Eight million recalled cars later, you might have guessed that Toyota is no longer the bastion of quality.

The #1 complaint that will stick against Toyota is that executives knew about the problems and did nothing about it because to recall wouldn’t be profitable. Any time a company chooses profitability over customer safety, they WILL fail. I don’t think all Toyota cars are poorly made. In fact, I would still drive one. But I certainly don’t esteem the company as I once did. My sentiment has shifted back towards my old faithful but less publicized love, Honda.

Ford, on the other hand, has taken a major leap forward in public opinion. By refusing to accept government bailout money, Ford differentiated itself among American automakers as one willing to risk failure without spending the people’s money. Speaking from personal experience, I know that this decision caused me to look much more favorably upon Ford and caused a greater mark of distinction in my mind between Ford and GM.

I’ve bought Hondas and Toyotas and Nissans exclusively since my 2nd car. While I certainly understand the public outcry against Toyota, I think they will recover if they play their cards well.

But kudos to Ford for finding a way to stand head and shoulders above other American car companies, certainly earning them the moniker: the choice of the common man.

Lesson Learned

The best defense is a good offense. In other words, good companies have good reputations.

4 responses to “Toyota and Ford: A Tale of Two Automakers”

  1. Daniel, thanks for highlighting Ford. Just to be clear, though – the report from JD Power & Associates was not one of reputation but of initial quality of our vehicles. So, far more than the advance in reputation that Ford has been seeing, this is quantitative proof that we're building better vehicles.

    Yes, we're pleased to have the public's attention thanks to our stance with respect to government assistance; but we'd like to use the opportunity to draw that attention to the truly great products that we're putting out with top quality, best in class fuel economy, more IIHS top safety picks than any other automaker, and technology that fits with your life. That's the Ford difference – one that we hope many people experience by taking a test drive.

    The reputation management business is an ongoing effort. We're learning every day and trying to improve at everything we do. We're very fortunate to have a strong plan and strong executive team that's leading us there.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company</a.

  2. Thanks for pointing out Ford's accomplishments in quality, Scott. I made the assumption that people following the link would make that distinction on their own.

    There are really two issues at stake in this post, and I focused on the reputation. Toyota's reputation has dipped because of quality AND their view of the customer's value made public. Ford's reputation has spiked because of both quality AND corporate approach.

    Kudos to Ford. I'm contemplating a Ford purchase for the first time ever.

  3. Thanks, Daniel. It's something we take very seriously, as you can tell.

    If there's anything we can do to help you as you continue contemplating, please be in touch.

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