Is Toyota on a path to becoming Walmart — aka, the ‘Evil Empire’ so many people love to hate?

New twists and turns in the Toyota crisis saga:

Common Application Essay Help York Times As predicted here, Congress is starting to clamor for company President Akio Toyoda to testify. So I’ll repeat my advice from Feeding Frenzy: “When Congress calls your company on the carpet, they want to hear from your CEO. Don’t waste time arguing; it’s not an argument you’re going to win.” News reports now say Toyoda plans a trip to the U.S. in March to meet with media, dealers and others to try to help rebuild trust in the company. The company is not yet saying that he will testify before Congress. Better bake that into the boss’ itinerary, guys.

source It was less than a week ago that Toyoda finally emerged from his undisclosed bunker to apologize at a hastily called Friday evening press conference that got mixed reviews from the Japanese press. But at least he is taking steps to shed the unflattering nickname: “No-show Akio.” Toyota’s quality problems are snowballing like a runaway Lexus down Capital Hill in a blizzard – first rogue floormats then a faulty accelerator pedal blamed for the sudden acceleration worries, then hesitant brakes in Prius, the company’s halo car, now worries about steering problems in Corolla, the world’s best-selling car. What’s next? Will the Tundra be blamed for record snowfalls in Washington? Are the media just piling-on in gleeful Japan-bashing? Please. Spare me.

I remember back in early 2006 asking my Ford colleagues the question: When will Toyota become Wal-Mart?

The Japanese automaker was on a decades-long roll, set to surpass GM as the world’s largest automaker and it occurred to me that we might be witnessing a transformation. The much-admired, seldom-criticized Toyota juggernaut might be headed into a buzz-saw. Everyone aims their arrows at No. 1. Just ask Wal-Mart. When it grew from much-admired, seldom-criticized regional retailer bringing low prices and brand-name quality to small towns in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma to become the world’s largest retailer, it became a magnet for unrelenting criticism that simply out-matched its quaint and unsophisticated PR department.

That will never happen to Toyota, I was told. They’re much more sophisticated and strategic in everything they do, including communications. Well, that sophistication also made the company arrogant and impervious to criticism. The company may not yet be inspiring a whole cottage industry of anti-Toyota megaphones ala Wal-mart Watch or – but those organizations exist because of anti-Walmart-litigation-enriched lawyers (“Find a Lawyer to Sue Wal-mart“) and the plaintiff lawyers defintiely smell a cash cow in Toyota.

With lawsuits now flooding in against Toyota, the critics are marching to the beat of the cash register. Maybe the supposedly grass roots site,, will be joined by louder voices. Maybe Toyota is having a full-on Wal-Mart.

Craft Creative Paper Writer - Jon Harmon


  1. Dan Bedore says:

    Yep. I remember you asking the “When will Toyota become Wall-Mart” question. But I’m still not sure that has happened or ever will.
    The media has turned on Toyota, for sure. We all figured they would taste the wrath of the media soon after becoming No.1.
    Toyota would do well to read your, very timely, book on managing through a major crisis. I just read it and thought it could not have come at a better time. There are lessons and insights in the book that many companies could learn from, one company in particular.

  2. toyota screw everything up….

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