Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What the Kids Think About Toyota

Just thinking about something that came up in class today.

In my Latin III class, we've been talking about the rhetorical device called ekphrasis. That's a somewhat obscure method of using drama or narrative to tell the story of a picture or art work... and sometimes vice-versa.

So, the day before, I'd asked the students to write short stories demonstrating abundant use of ekphrasis. Today we read the stories.

And it wasn't the 'demonstration of abundant use of ekphrasis' that caught my greatest notice.

It was the fact that a third of the students had written short stories that in each of which had at some point slammed Toyota.


Afterwards we laughed about it and had a candid discussion and the majority of students came to the agreement that Toyotas were deathtraps.


And they readily shared this opinion of the car company on their blogs, on Facebook, et al.

Which got me thinking: could Toyota wind up being another casualty of the digital age? And not for any reason but that their tarnished reputation is the digitally-shared laughing-stock of the next generation of car buyers?


  1. Toyota's problems have pushed the opinion of Japanese products back to the 1950's when, aa a kid, I could buy cheap Japanese toys that did not last very long or rusted into junk before you were bored with them.

    The abandonment of the quest for ever improving quality is shocking, W. Edwards Deming must be rolling in his grave.

  2. How many of your kids thought this way about Toyotas before recent digital hype? I feel that if twitter was around during the prius bubble they would have LOVED toyotas.

    This brings me to a larger question about viral, does it necessarily mean what kids individually are thinking, or what kids as an aggregate are thinking, through the aggregate of an individual. This has always happened (I had a preference for Chevrolet autos as a kid and hated fords, couldn't drive but heard sentiments over at the jiffy lube)

  3. I like the point about "are they really individually thinking"? It's up to us (adults) to guide and challenge critical thinking, and I love that you are open enough in your Latin class to encourage students to talk about something that isn't, from the naked eye, about Latin. That's the mark of a great teacher.

    As far as this particular incident, all manufacturers at some point put out a bad/defective product if they are in business long enough... not enough testing, market demand pushes items out to market before they've been vetted, or sometimes there's no way to tell something is, for example, going to fall apart UNTIL it's been out on the marketplace and lots of people are using it.

    I think most people are missing the point with Toyota. It's not that the product had problems, it's that Toyota made the conscious decision to not address those problems once they became aware of them. And that was strictly a money-motivated decision on their part, according to the internal memos.

    Ironically, the decision, as msenorhill said, has probably cost them the entire next generation of car buyers. I would encourage your kids to analyze ALL scenarios based on "what's the right thing to do". It will serve them better than "how am I going to make the most money on this."

    In the long run, Toyota just lost a fortune.


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