Soon after Lexus’ introduction I had the pleasure of experiencing an LS400 for an evening (a nice little perk; evaluating vehicles from a consumer standpoint all for the sake of research). I remember sitting in the car, starting it up, and two minutes later pulling over in a parking lot because I was overwhelmed by all the workings on the dashboard. I reached into the glove box and pulled out the owner’s manual and started reading. Important data stored in my brain, I continued my test run.
That vehicle was priced at $35,000; at that time a Mercedes E Class was around 50K. Hope I got those numbers right; pulled them from my cranium! Lexus, by the way, was Toyota’s debut into the U.S. luxury market.
Infiniti, Nissan’s new brand, intro’d with products similar to the two Lexus models. The Infiniti styling was perhaps not as modern as Lexus but let’s remember that the overall look of most vehicles was still rather square with some rounding on the corners. However, Infiniti’s flagship, the Q45, may have suffered some loss of sales simply for lacking a grille.
At any rate, Lexus took Infiniti to the cleaners. And Toyota showed us how to something bad and make it into something good. Turns out those $35,000 LS400s had a few quality issues out of the gate. This could have been devastating for the brand; instead, Lexus came forward towards the end of 1989 and voluntarily recalled 8,000 vehicles that were already in consumer’s garages.
Okay, you’re thinking, so what? Car manufacturers have voluntary recalls every day. True. Now here’s where an important word comes in. Expectations. Would you, as a consumer, expect an automotive company to take care of you with customer service that would far exceed your expectations?
Hello marketing opportunity! Not only could Lexus fix the problem by sending service technicians to consumer’s home or place of work to pick up and return a repaired car to those consumers, they could generate some positive imagery about the brand. According to a Los Angeles Times Article, LS400 owners in more remote locations were reached via flying in the technicians! I’m sure the media latched onto some stories surrounding those extremes!
Lexus quickly became known as THE automotive brand for customer service. It’s no surprise that they’ve topped studies such as the JD Power Initial Quality Survey many times.
Simply put, those initial buyers got more than a car. And Toyota cleverly found a way for their new brand to gain a foothold in the states. A standard was set for other automotive manufacturers and perhaps others outside of the car industry to aspire to.
LinkedIn could take a lesson here. Yes, they admitted that password security was breached and that’s great. However, the issue had already spread like wildfire via Twitter, blogs, and other social media sources. Why not “save face” by being upfront right from the start, accept the issue head on, and then resolve it in a way that leaves a path for moving forward again.
Brands, take some lessons from Lexus! Keep your hands on the wheel and enjoy the Lexus commercial from 1989 below. For Part One, click here. Oh, and ...say hello! There's the website, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ ...I'll say Hi back.