Toyota crisis shakes hometown, and Japan Inc. too

As a driver of a Toyata car this news is sad indeed…

By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura (AFP)

There is a saying in Toyota’s hometown that when the auto giant sneezes, the whole city falls ill. But the symptoms of its recall crisis look set to be felt far beyond “Japan’s Detroit”. No flashy signs or advertisements are necessary to remind visitors to the company town in central Japan that it is the birthplace of the world’s largest carmaker. The name — Toyota City — speaks for itself.

But the group’s influence extends well beyond the city limits, and concerns are mounting across Asia’s biggest economy that Toyota’s massive global safety recalls will tarnish the brand image of Japan Inc as a whole. Japan’s biggest company — which employs more than 300,000 people around the world — has long been a source of pride for the nation.

Its cars dominate the roads, used by millions of Japanese including the royal family and the prime minister. Toyota’s success mirrored the country’s post-war economic miracle, driven by the success of its carmakers and other exporters. Nowhere are the company’s woes felt more keenly than in the eponymous city, renamed in 1959 in recognition of Toyota’s growing importance.

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