Connect to share and comment

Fordzilla vs. Japan

It may not be a giant radioactive lizard, but Ford is stomping all over Japan's auto industry.

Now for Toyota.

The Japanese automaker is having one of the worst weeks in recent corporate history following the recall of nearly 9 million cars worldwide for sticky accelerator pedals and other flaws, and a temporary production shutdown at factories in the U.S. and Canada.

Then on Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it is tentatively planning a hearing next Thursday on the question: “Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public At Risk?”

No, it hasn't been a good week for Toyota.

"I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything to this magnitude,” Jake Fisher, a senior engineer with Consumer Reports magazine, told the New York Times. “We’ve never seen multiple production lines shut down. If you go to a Toyota dealer right now, they can’t sell you a Camry, they can’t sell you a Corolla or a Highlander.”

So what's going on?

With regard to Toyota's sudden and severe quality crisis, most analysts point to the company's rapid growth as it set out to squeeze its Detroit competitors. The strategy worked spectacularly, of course. Toyota is now the world's largest automaker, and the second-biggest in the U.S. But somehow, its legendary focus on quality — this line of argument goes — has been lost in the mad dash for market share.

To fight back against its latest woes, Toyota this weekend is reportedly planning a marketing and PR blitz to reassure customers that its cars are still safe.

Ford, meanwhile, has gone the opposite direction.

Under the direction of former Boeing boss Mulally, it has cut costs, sold off unprofitable or distracting divisions like Jaguar, and has designed and engineered a new line of fuel efficient, practical vehicles that consumers actually want to buy. In other words, Ford started acting more, well, Japanese.

Of course, plenty could still go wrong with the company. It still has $34.3 billion in debt. The global auto market is still awash in unsold cars. And the global economy is still on weak legs, particularly in the U.S.

But for now anyway, this native Detroiter thinks the revived U.S. automaker deserves a new nickname: Fordzilla.

Long may it rampage.