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car talk

Recalls Are Still a Touchy Topic as Toyota Issues Fix For Half of All Priuses

Posted by Dale Buss on February 12, 2014 12:54 PM

Painfully, Toyota has to recall 1.9 million Prius vehicles to fix a software glitch that could slow down or bring the car to a halt. But unlike Tesla, the company isn't arguing that such an action doesn't constitute an actual "recall" unlike some of its peers. 

The Prius recall couldn't have come at a worse time for Toyota in part because the issue of recalls remains particularly sensitive for the company. It is just now working out the final details of a settlement with the US government, reportedly for $1 billion, over how it botched the unintended-recall issue with its cars in 2009 and 2010.

Also, Toyota recalled more vehicles than any automaker in the US in the last two years, according to federal government statistics. Whether that's because the company's recall trigger is heavier these days because of its previous problems, or real issues of manufacturing quality have slipped into the vaunted Toyota Production System, isn't clear at this point.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Is Lululemon Bending Over Backwards for Wall Street More Than Customers?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on March 21, 2013 03:18 PM

Lululemon Athletica revealed Monday that it expects earnings to drop this quarter due to a dud batch of its popular yoga pants made with its proprietary luon fabric, which its store managers indicated were being returned by customers who found them too sheer for wearing. “Some of our bottoms were made with a batch of black luon that doesn’t meet our standards so we’ve pulled them from our floors and our website.” 

After being downgraded by Credit Suisse and others after the news, an earnings call today meant to detail the company's fourth quarter and full year 2012 results along with 2013 developments such as a move into golf and tennis apparel was instead taken up with answering analysts' questions about how it was handling the crisis—and offering more (ahem) transparency about the situation than has been offered to customers.Continue reading...

retail watch

Brand Transparency: Lululemon Recalls Yoga Pants for Sheer Fabric (UPDATED)

Posted by Sheila Shayon on March 19, 2013 03:49 PM

Is this a sign of things to come for Canada's retail darling? Lululemon, the Vancouver-based lifestyle brand and highly successful global retailer, over the weekend pulled its Luon black yoga pants from store shelves after discovering the sheer material was just too sheer, a result, some say, of poor quality control on the company's part. On Monday, the retailer announced it would be pulling various—but unnamed—styles of its popular (and pricey) yoga pants, explaining, “Some of our bottoms were made with a batch of black luon that doesn’t meet our standards so we’ve pulled them from our floors and our website.”

“At lululemon, our most important relationship is with our communities and our guests. We recently learned some information about some product that arrived in our stores and we wanted you to know right away,” according to the retailer's blog post. “We are working with our supplier to replace this fabric and other manufacturers to replenish the affected core items as fast as we can. What that means is there will be a shortage of these styles in our stores and online until our new stock arrives. We are also in conversation with our manufacturing partner to understand what happened during the period this fabric was made.”

The brand said it will offer refunds or exchanges to customers who bought the affected item in March, either online or in stores. Lululemon—which was just named Canada's top retail brand by Interbrand's 2013 Best Retail Brands report—is known for turning around products on short order. "Our guest knows that there's a limited supply, and it creates these fanatical shoppers," CEO Christine Day, a former Starbucks executive, told the Wall Street Journal. But the reported pants issue isn't a calculated sales strategy to boost demand and drive sales.Continue reading...

auto motive

Toyota, Lexus Trip Again on Floor-Mat Issue in Record U.S. Safety Fine

Posted by Dale Buss on December 18, 2012 01:08 PM

Toyota may be on the rise again in the U.S. market, but it still can't get the floor-pedal thing right.

The automaker has just been ordered to pay a record fine of $17.35 million for failing to report a safety defect to the U.S. government in a timely manner, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. The fine is a record civil penalty for a single violation and the maximum that the federal government can assess.

And the thing is, the fine relates to the same troubled region of its automobiles — the intersection between floor mats and floor pedals — that was behind Toyota's catastrophic unintended-acceleration problems in 2010 and the company's payment of nearly $50 million in total fines for reporting violations on sticking gas pedals and some other matters.Continue reading...

auto motive

Study: Toyota Customers Need Reassuring in Wake of Global Recall

Posted by Dale Buss on October 16, 2012 04:19 PM

It might be a stretch to say that Toyota didn't see this coming. But Toyota Motor executives are likely stunned by how quickly the brand's latest recall fiasco has affected the standing of the once-sterling Toyota marque, at least in the minds of some consumers. And soon it could affect the breakneck pace of Toyota's sales bounce-back in the U.S. this year.

Last week, Toyota announced a recall affecting 7.4 million vehicles worldwide, the biggest number seen in the auto industry in 16 years. The recall is to correct faulty electric-window switches that could catch on fire, but Toyota had reported no accidents or injuries as a result of this problem.

Presumably because this "massive Toyota recall" of 2012 sounds too much like the "massive Toyota recall" of 2010 not to mention subsequent recalls, consumer perception of Toyota's brand "has plummeted" according to YouGov BrandIndex research. Its score slumped badly over the last few days and now occupies the bottom in a chart of 32 car brands tracked by the service, down from sixth place just a week earlier.Continue reading...

auto motive

Toyota's Total Recall - Deja Vu, All Over Again?

Posted by Dale Buss on October 11, 2012 12:17 PM

Just as Toyota seemed to be in the clear again after a couple of years of recovery from major problems, some external and some self-imposed, the brand finds itself back in a thicket of major problems — some from outside and some from inside the company.

The slump in sales in Japan because of a geopolitical spat, and now news of a massive new recall of 7.4 million vehicles by Toyota, have created major speed bumps in the way of Toyota's global sales recovery. After its unintended-acceleration recall fiasco of 2010 and natural disasters that wreaked havoc with its supply chain last year along with smaller recalls, Toyota was forging a smoother path in 2012 with major new models, rising sales, and recaptured market share.

This new recall involves 7.4 million vehicles globally, including 2.5 million cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., due to a potential fire hazard involving power-window switches. The "glitch on a world-wide scale ... evokes the company's much-publicized quality woes of two years ago," the Wall Street Journal noted. That's exactly the kind of assessment, and prospects, that Toyota can't afford right now as it puts together its solid comeback in 2012.Continue reading...

auto motive

Ford Goes Beyond Escape Recall, Putting Employees in Ads, Comedians on Web

Posted by Dale Buss on September 3, 2012 03:22 PM

Ford has been putting "real people" in many of its ads for a while now, including the "Swap Your Ride" subjects hobnobbing with Mike Rowe and the actual Ford owners who were peppered with questions by fake reporters in the brand's controversial staged press conference stunt.

Now positioning their own workers as real people, the brand's marketers are now putting put actual Ford employees into ads promoting the 2013 Ford Escape crossover-utility vehicle. The campaign aims to show how Ford's people are demonstrating their internal drive to "Go Further," the tagline centerpiece of Ford's new global brand positioning. Ford also is launching a new web-only video comedy series behind the nameplate as well.

"We don't have a blanket strategy now to always do real people in ads, but in a lot of cases we're finding it does work," Scott Kelly, Ford's communications manager, told brandchannel. "We look at it campaign by campaign. Where it does work, it's all about being as authentic as possible."Continue reading...

chew on this

Fast Food Slows Down as Happy Meal is Cut to the Core

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 13, 2012 04:22 PM

Fast-food giants share a not-so-secret recipe: make the up sell, adding fries to your bill or talking you into some kind of combination meal.

But the up sell isn’t working quite the way it used to. Consumers aren’t asking for "the #5 with fries" anywhere near as much as they used to, Fortune reports. A study by NPD Group finds that sales of combo meals at fast-food restaurants have gone down 12% in the last five years.

That means a billion fewer combo meals were ordered in the five-year period ending this past January than were ordered up in the five years before that. The lousy economy has something to do with it, but the study also showed that consumers would like to have more options in their combos.

The grand-daddy of the combo meal is the Happy Meal, which has been holding on for dear life. Revamped in time for the London Summer Olympics healthier menu marketing, it's been hit in markets such as Chile, where the government is now prohibiting restaurants (but it might as well say "McDonald's") from including toys with meals.Continue reading...

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