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Paul Naysmith

Quality Insider

My Toyota Dilemma

Applying critical-to-quality characteristics on a subjective decision

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 11:07

As a quality professional, I am a huge admirer of what the Japanese, and in particular Toyota, have given the business world, and how they have influenced quality improvements like no other in history.

Although in recent years Toyota did have a “blip” in its immaculate history, according to the J. D. Power 2010 Initial Quality Study, its cars still top surveys and polls for quality and reliability. Out of sheer respect for the Toyota approach or “way,” when I teach people about quality, I tend to drop in Toyota examples. Afterwards my students ask me, “Which Toyota do you drive?” apparently looking for some advice on getting a good motor. My answer usually is, “Er... well... it’s... I don’t have one.” Here I am, a quality professional singing Toyota’s praises and not owning one. Do I thereby lose some credibility in front of my students? Perhaps you, too, are in a similar position as I: a quality professional with a Toyota dilemma.

As I write this, I am in the position of looking to replace my current European “people’s car,” which has led me to think about what my preferred Toyota option should be. So to start off, like any good quality professional, I need to understand my critical-to-quality characteristics. Perpetuating the Scottish stereotype, economy heads the list.

Why is economy my critical-to-quality characteristic? I live 30 miles from my place of work, and this means I have to do a lot of driving. I use so much fuel; I feel that I am personally funding the entire UK government through all the duty I pay. This leads me to consider one of those Toyota hybrid cars because they tend not to be heavy drinkers. However, to be honest, I couldn’t bring myself to own one as they are just plain ugly.

Why is the way that a car looks important to me? Simply, I am vain and daft enough to think that a car is a reflection of me or my character. So for good looks, I’ll need to explore something in Toyota’s Lexus division of cars. After test driving a very aesthetically pleasing Lexus, I felt that the driving experience was a bit of a letdown.

Why is the driving experience important to me? Given that I do so much driving over a mix of country lanes, main roads, and motorways, I need to have some level of enjoyment in doing so. Sorry, Lexus; compared to your Munich-based competitor, you lose. However your German opposition is rather—in fact a lot—more expensive for the same specifications of a similar vehicle.

Why is the cost limiting my options? Like many others I’m working to a budget, which is determined by how much of a loan I can afford. So I have identified a better-value option, in my price range, which excludes the ultimate Bavarian driving machine as a choice.

So what is my Toyota option? It is something I use every day, it is super-powerful, and it will take me places quickly and effectively. I enjoy using it, showing it off to everyone I meet, and it brings tremendous value to me and others when used. I thank you, Japan and Toyota, for the vehicle I settled on: its simplicity is its beauty.

If you are still wondering what my preferred Toyota option is, you may wish to reflect on your career in quality. “Why?” you may ask—and so you should. Repeatedly.


About The Author

Paul Naysmith’s picture

Paul Naysmith

Paul Naysmith is the author of Business Management Tips From an Improvement Ninja and Business Management Tips From a Quality Punk. He’s also a Fellow and Chartered Quality Professional with the UK’s Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), and an honorary member of the South African Quality Institute (SAQI). Connect with him at www.paulnaysmith.com, or follow him on twitter @PNaysmith.

Those who have read Paul’s columns might be wondering why they haven’t heard from him in a while. After his stint working in the United States, he moved back to his homeland of Scotland, where he quickly found a new career in the medical-device industry; became a dad to his first child, Florence; and decided to restore a classic car back to its roadworthy glory. With the help of his current employer, he’s also started the first-of-its-kind quality apprenticeship scheme, which he hopes will become a pipeline for future improvement ninjas and quality punks.


Don't worry about it

I wouldn't lose any sleep over not driving a Toyota. You can, at the same time, admire their management system and production processes while not really caring for the look of their products. I personally don't find Toyotas very appealing from a looks or driving perspective. The only time I drove a Toyota full time was a Prius, which was a company vehicle for three years. I hardly fell in love with Toyota from that experience. It wasn't awful, nor was it great. Drive whatever suits you. Jeff Liker has talked about always driving Toyota and Lexus, but I think they suit his needs. Jim Womack doesn't drive a Toyota, or I'm pretty sure of that.