The recent Toyota debacle underscores just how important consumer trust is, and the jury is not out yet on how it will ultimately affect the Japanese auto giant. But one thing is certain; they will spend millions on a well-crafted PR campaign to convince the masses that they would never compromise that trust. The facts, however, belie even the best of spin, and a sharp cookie doesn’t have to look too far to see why.
Although Toyota has had a history of building reliable vehicles, the truth is that they, as well as many other manufacturers have recalls all the time for everything from defective tires to faulty ignition systems. If Toyota is so confident in their brand image and their products, how come they need to do a mega-million dollar advertising blitz with 0% financing and everybody under the sun appearing in it? Because they are scared, damn scared. Toyota, by its own admission has never offered this type of financing before because its line was always considered a premium brand, it didn’t have to. Now that its backside is up against the wall, they need to compete for sales any way they can, even on price. Toyota says that they are offering this incredible, possibly “never again” offer to reward its customers for standing by the company and continuing to buy its cars. I say not. The real reason is, of course, Toyota’s wallet. If Toyota tanks, Japan is in deep shit. Everything, and I mean everything Japanese is at stake here, and the mighty Toyota will do whatever it takes to avoid that. Even if it means hiring the best god damn American PR firm to clean up its mess. And the American PR firm will gladly take Toyota’s money because Americans, unfortunately, are whores for the dollar. We will even jeopardize our own safety on the road as well as others, if the price is right, by allowing faulty products to be imported with our consent. So if our trust can be bought by a slick ad campaign and a good deal on a car, why are people so reluctant to trust each other on a personal level? It doesn’t make sense. But then again, so many things don’t. I guess I shouldn’t be all that shocked by what Toyota is doing, after all, they’re just using us as guinea pigs in a grand auto marketing experiment to see how stupid we are and how much shit we will take.
Trust used to be an inherent part of a relationship, but now that it is bought and sold, it conforms to the laws of supply and demand the same as any other commodity does. Right now the demand for trust is very high, and the supply is low. But don’t worry, Toyota’s got deep pockets, and they’ll be glad to throw in a Camry or two to sweeten the pot.