Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: A golden opportunity

A golden opportunity
By Michael Berland
Published April 26, 2010

Q: U.S.-made cars are now held in higher regard by American consumers than Asian-made vehicles — a significant turnaround in public opinion. Is this the result of negative publicity about Toyota or have Ford and other U.S. carmakers made the changes needed to change the perception about their vehicles? How hard is it to transform a person or product’s reputation once it’s set in people’s minds?

We live in a fluid culture, where things change and opinion changes. That is a good thing.

Toyota’s troubles could not have come at a better time for the American auto industry.

This is true from both a consumer point of view and a businessperson’s point of view.

(It seems like just yesterday you couldn’t sit down on an airplane or a commuter train without the guy next to you reading the bestselling business books on “the Toyota way” about the company’s successful business philosophy.)

Toyota had a long way to fall in the eyes of the American consumer. But fall they did. And to be sure, American car companies stand to benefit.

But the schadenfreude that GM and Ford must surely feel at Toyota’s misfortunes is not enough to carry them laughing all the way to the bank.

The new study showing that Americans are giving domestic autos a new look means the American car companies have a real opportunity, once Toyota’s troubles fade from the headlines, to re-invent themselves in the court of public opinion and appeal to new car owners.

Lucky for Ford and GM, America is all about comebacks. And we’re a culture that respects them.

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