I’m not in love … with my car – Has Toyota lost its innovation mojo?

Some of you will know from reading my latest book “The Music of Business” that I’m a big fan of Toyota’s innovation.  It’s with some astonishment and disappointment that I must report a crack in the otherwise seamless seam in their unstoppable innovation drive.

I recently bought a new Toyota Prius from Beadles, having owned two previously and swapped to Toyota due to poor service from BMW. Compared with the last two cars, I’m afraid that this Prius has regressed, speaking electronically.

It has the facility to connect my iPod, yet on a number of occasions, the car has ‘frozen’ my iPod solid, so my only choice has been to reboot the iPod.  It has also destroyed some of the files.  The service centre has not been able to locate the cause of the fault.  Worse still, since they cannot locate the source of the fault, Toyota GB’s customer relations department have gone into denial over the problem.  If there’s one thing thats much worse than having a problem, it’s when customer relations people attempt to rewrite the story for fear of legal problems that they think might occur if they told the truth! OK, the ability to connect your iPod is not life threatening, so why am I writing this?

The satellite navigation is a permanent liability on this vehicle when all previous models were fine.  Toyota have redesigned the system and the screen is approximately 10% smaller than the previous model.  This seemingly small change has big consequences and I’m astonished that it was not picked up in focus groups and so on which are all part of the design process.

In brief, the sat nav, when set on the ‘shortest route’ i.e. the ‘straight line’ option, does some very strange things.  I spent two hours going about 5 miles in Wales recently, when the sat nav took me on a 270 degree excursion when there was a perfectly good trunk road available.  This included a trip through an unmade road and a farm.  As I was not familiar with the area, I trusted the sat nav and travelled approximately 30 miles on this straight line option, eventually arriving back nearly at where we had started.  The impact of this was that a 5 hour trip turned into a 10 hour one as we hit traffic on the motorway on our eventual return.  Small things can have much greater consequences.

Toyota's Sat Nav System in operation

Toyota’s Sat Nav System in operation

It has on several occasions advised me to take diversions due to ‘traffic congestion’ when there have been traffic lights ahead.  As a result, I have no faith in the system.  It is making me late for important business meetings and I regard punctuality as key in all my business dealings.

I was late for an important business meeting as the sat nav did not recognise an address in Tunbridge Wells recently.  The address was an established building and not a new build.  Toyota themselves have acknowledged that the system does not find “55 Calverley Road in Tunbridge Wells”, but moved back into denial when I asked them to put it right.

55 Calverley Road - It's just an illusion according to Toyota's customer service centre

55 Calverley Road – It’s just an illusion according to Toyota’s customer service centre

I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ as innovation is continuous in most companies these days.  But the previous sat nav worked just fine in terms of navigation and the new system is a retrograde step, which Toyota needs to learn from.  At this point in time, this will be the last Toyota I ever buy.  The petrol heads amongst you may well say, “but it’s not the engine Peter”.  Yet, the electronic features of a car are now as important as the engine imho.  I may be an unusual buyer as I buy a ‘stereo system on wheels’ rather than an ‘engine’.  I certainly don’t want a car that destroys my record collection and makes me late for business meetings.  I like it even less when I as the customer get caught in the ‘crack in the pavement’ when the Service Centre say its a matter for Toyota and Toyota say it’s a matter for the Service Centre.  What say you Toyota?  Have you lost your innovation mojo?

In the warped words of Roger Taylor and Queen “I’m in love with my car (NOT)”

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12 responses to “I’m not in love … with my car – Has Toyota lost its innovation mojo?

  1. Should have stuck with BMW Peter, poor service is normally down to the dealership rather than the vehicle, and German cars themselves are far better thought out…

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  2. As a BMW owner I have to say that I am surprised that you fell for the blurb on the Prius, Peter. If you want electric technology then Honda is far superior and yet none of them are ‘friendlier’ to the environment at the end of the day.

    On a more positive note, I work with Toyota and other Japanese OEMS a lot and I feel sure that if you write to the head office in Japan you will get a much better response. Particularly if you also refer them to your blog as they do not like this type of ‘losing face’. In the meantime I guess re-invention of the good old paper map is needed here!

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  3. Whilst as a dedicated Beemer driver I agree with Rob, I think there’s a deeper point here.. something about the fracturing of trust and the loss of a customer who believed the marketing…!

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  4. It is sad to hear this story – and sadly, the lack of customer commitment feels like the headline here? I think you are like many of us Peter – you just want the thing to do it’s job(s)! The most expensive thing you can ever buy is a product or service that doesn’t do what you bought it for. I suspect you will have little joy with the faceless crew who will hope you just go away…

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  5. I sympathize with your goal of a “stereo system on wheels.” After all, any old car can drive you from one place to another. As to sat-navs, I find them a poor substitute for a map. They’re fine if you’re going from one mailing address to another, but they don’t help much with alternate routes or orienting one to an area. Since I insist on knowing where I am in relation to where I’m going, a map is a necessity.

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