Today, Toyota made a pretty big announcement Because of a small fault in the window catches of their cars, they are recalling 7 million cars globally, of which 138,000 are in the UK. It’s a precaution, rather than a massive urgent recall, and it only applies to cars manufactured between 06 and 08.
Now, Toyota have had a difficult couple of years. They had a big (and far more urgent) recall first off, that whilst well-handled, undoubtedly left their company reputation damaged. Since then they’ve had credit issues, which have been widely reported, and then the damage of the massive Japanese Tsunami threw their production of news cars into turmoil. So, it hasn’t been easy.
As such, it’s fair to look at this latest recall and wince in sympathy. The general public are likely to be pissed off and annoyed, and the hassle of taking their car into the dealership could put them off the brand for years, as well as damaging the general public’s perception of Toyota’s reliability and product quality. This could, theoretically at least, reduce sales and give the companies marketing teams a lot of work playing catch up and repairing what could be perceived as a leaking ship.
Yet, a little part of me harbours a nagging suspicion, triggered by an equally cynical colleague. Is there more to this “We’re recalling these cars to keep you safe and because we care for our customers” recall than first meets the eye?
You see, as a Toyota dealership, the priority is getting potential customers through the door. Once they’re there, they’re prey, and ready and waiting to be sold a car, whether or not they actually came in to buy or not (you’d be amazed how many people go in for a standard service, go out with a £300 a month finance deal). And the best people to get through the doors are those who are starting to “need” a new car, whose current models have passed the magic age of 3 years, who are likely to be starting to think about getting something newer, more modern, less rough around the edges. In addition, people are likely to be doing their research and using sites such as www.motors.co.uk to find used cars – which could impact on Toyota’s sales.
Because there is a “potential” problem worth recalling for, Toyota suddenly has to have access to the database for all people who own cars of that age. Meaning they can get into a dealership every single person currently at that magic new car stage, and potentially (as it is unlikely to be a recall for a problem they have actually experience, thus not damaging the companies reputation too much) up sell to a new car. If it works, it could be a guerilla marketers wet dream!
Which do you think this is? A bit of both, perhaps?
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