We are living in some real tough economic times right now. Especially if you work for the automobile industry.
I had thirty five years of service with Ford Motor Company before I retired back in March of 2007. Quality was not the most important issue back in 1972, when I hired in at Ford. We didn’t have a lot of competition back then and we were more concerned about how many vehicles we were getting out the door.
When the oil embargo hit us, many of my friends lost their jobs and never did get them back. I was fortunate to be only laid off for a short time and was called back.
People were starting to think about saving money. The Japanese introduced their very funny looking cars, but they were cars that were very fuel efficient. As more and more of their vehicles were being sold, the, “Made in Japan”, joke that was passed around was not getting to much laughter anymore. This competition was going to change the whole auto industry forever.
This was a good thing. It forced us to start thinking about the quality we were putting into our cars or else we could all start looking for a new career. Competition always creates better products.
This all came to life for me when Ford Motor Company sent me and about thirty other employees to the Mazda Plant in Hiroshima, Japan. It was one of the high points of my life. Not only Mazda and it’s employees, but the whole people of Japan that embraced us and made us welcome in their country, is something that I will never forget.
Mazda took us on a tour of their facility. There is a place at the end of the assembly process were the cars are kept for any final repairs before they are shipped out to dealers. All Ford facilities had this area also. As we started to walk into that area, we were told that those cars were just being given routine preparations for final delivery, and we were not allowed to enter. We could see repairs being performed, we just didn’t know what they were doing. Clearly, they didn’t want us to know what they were doing either.
As I look back at my thirty five years of service with Ford, I saw some incredible changes in quality occur. We went from no concern for quality to producing some of the best quality vehicles in the world. The quality of our vehicles would equal or surpass anything that the Japanese had to offer. What bothered me the most was when Ford, Chrysler, or GM had a concern with one of their vehicles, it was front page news. That was good, because we made it better. I can’t say the same for Toyota.
I used to go around with my family and some of my friends who would swear that American built cars were inferior to the Japanese. Some of them owned Japanese vehicles. I would always argue that I talked with the employees of Mazda and I saw how they were made. They don’t build them any different then we do. They have repairs just like we do, they just don’t own up to it.
I really believe that for years the Japanese auto makers had the US media in their hip pocket. Every time they had a problem, you would find it in the back page of the newspaper. Not so when an American auto maker had a recall. That was always front page news.
Toyota is having some major issues with some of their cars. There seems to be no where to hide for them anymore. The sticking accelerator. The brake problem with their very popular Prius. Now it’s a steering issue as some vehicles are being pulled form side to side. It’s not these issues that have me bothered, it’s the way Toyota has handled them. They had to be pulled out into the open, and even then they refused to admit there were any issues with their vehicles. Some have suggested an attempted cover-up by Toyota.
I for one, don’t feel sorry for them one bit. Nor for any of those people who bought their cars. After all they are better built cars…. right? It’s OK. Toyota said you can still drive their cars…. right? It may be until fall before they can fix yours, but don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to you. You won’t crash your car…. right? You won’t die or injure anyone….. right? No……that won’t happen to me?