Regarding the latter of the opposing arguments, I think McNeil was positioned slightly better on two fronts. First, McNeil’s negligence, if there was any, was in not foreseeing the potential for product tampering and not taking steps to package the product more securely. That is, McNeil was not directly responsible for the crisis. Toyota is in a situation of its own making. The second point is that Tylenol did not have a large competitor with the U.S. government as its biggest stock holder. Toyota is facing inquiry from the same congressmen and regulatory agencies that have recently purchased loads of General Motors stock. Hmmm.
So, the question is, how do the two big auto companies play their hands to their advantage?
If GM follows the advice of the famous Chinese General Sun Tsu, it would use its new found weapon (friends in Washington, D.C.) to claim the victory that Toyota has handed to them. Robert Greene, author of 48 Laws of Power would suggest that GM crush Toyota totally. Can this be done? Actually, if congress and other U.S. authorities can keep Toyota off balance by continuing with inquiries that keep Toyota in the news, and GM can come forth with truly superior products, I think they can pull this off. Should they do it? I’m not going to wade into a discussion about the American government owning a large corporation, but I think there is a great discussion about the “end result” ethical philosophy here. I am truly ambivalent on this situation and I look forward to see how GM plays this out.
Toyota, on the other hand needs to stay the course in showing how their focus is the customer and their commitment to supplying high quality products. Hushing dealers, covering up problems, and complaining about what the boys in Washington are doing, are a distraction and might be Toyota’s undoing. Also, Toyota needed to apologize and move on, it seems like they may be over apologizing, which will put them in a weaker position then they already are. I am not saying Toyota will go away, but they could suffer a setback that may take decades to recover from.
This report from NPR’s Marketplace will illustrate some of the tensions I’ve discussed. What do you think? I’m looking forward to your comments on this one.