Toyota’s sales success show that we forgive and forget
Perhaps we are just a little jaded by it all, but Toyota and Lexus’ announcement that they were to recall 253 Avensis and 186 Lexus models has barely raised an eyebrow from either the media or the general public.
Following what was a mixture of genuine concern and hysteria in the wake of significant numbers of cars being recalled across the globe and here in Ireland last year, the news this week that there was once again an issue which was relevant to the Irish market should perhaps have reignited the story. But one year later this latest recall has passed virtually unnoticed. Sure, it was covered by the main media outlets and even featured on the national broadcaster’s main news reports, but it seemed this time around the public just weren’t that bothered.
During the height of last year’s recall furore, I personally was getting phone calls left, right and centre asking me to appear on various radio phone-in shows where I was greeted by questions that would have been more relevant to an outbreak of the plague. Words like ‘fear’, ‘danger’ and ‘scandal’ were used in relation to a potential problem on a car, which would probably lead to nothing, but just in case it did, the firm were taking action on.
Owners of Toyota’s had said that they felt let down by the brand and that they would never buy another Toyota. It had the potential to be a PR disaster for the company. How could the brand, in Ireland, who marketed themselves as ‘the best built cars in the world’ cope with the news that perhaps in the end they weren’t? In fairness to Toyota, who initially in Ireland was a little slow to come out of the blocks, managed to turn things around.
We soon started to see too, that across the water in the United States, where a lot of the problems had been reported, that not all of the reports were genuine. What better way to get out of your car payments, if you are struggling with them, than to claim that your car was trying to kill you?
But surely the backlash would continue. Marketing experts and infinitely worse, ‘brand experts’ were wheeled out to forecast the demise of Toyota both here and abroad. Toyota simply couldn’t afford another scandal.
But then guess what? 2011 comes along and if you look at the sales figures for the first part of January then you find that Toyota are the dominant force at the top of the sales segment. The Avensis, Corolla and Auris are all in the top 5 in terms of sales and this of course is despite the fact that these days you are as likely to find that Renault have given you 85 percent off the price of a new Mégane or Fluence because you once walked past one of their dealerships. Watch TV3 for any great length of time and you soon realise that they no longer have ad breaks, but rather Renault breaks. Toyota are thought you have spent around half of what Renault did on advertising last year, yet the default choice for most family car buyers in Ireland remains the Toyota Avensis.
I personally have scratched my head a little at the phenomenon of Toyota’s continued sales success in Ireland. I respect their cars immensely, because despite their recall woes, if you want a car that will work longer than most others then you need a Toyota. But personally, I can’t imagine going out to buy any of their cars new, bar the iQ.
The Yaris, Auris, Corolla and Avensis are not the best cars in their class by any means. Nor are they the cheapest. There is now absolutely no car in their range, which is interesting, apart from the iQ. When I was growing up there were the MR2 and the Celica. There was the amazing Corolla GT too. There was a rally heritage and a decent set of wheels on a Corolla hatchback could have you looking a bit like a rally great.
But then again, the nature of our job is to test new cars and then give our view on how you guys should spend your hard earned money. We tend to like the interesting car, with the good chassis and the clever new engine technology. This is often slightly at odds with what the family is looking for, who has a set amount of money to spend, wants their car to just work and little else.
And the plain fact of the matter is, that while Toyota at the moment are doing little to give us thrills, although there is a new sports car on the way and talk of them addressing their general lack of performance models, they have done enough in Ireland anyway to ensure several generations more of good will. Despite all the apparent fury that was being directed towards the brand here in the wake of their recall issues, this time around it appears that we have already forgiven and forgotten.