Five Things Toyota Can Teach Lebron James

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Unless you’re living in a cave in Waziristan, you’ve undoubtedly learned that Lebron James has abandoned Cleveland for South Beach. After two years of nauseating speculation, LeBron finally announced his decision last night. [Sidebar: Staying in Cleveland would have been the right thing to do in my opinion – they have been destroyed because of him.]
What LeBron James can learn from Toyota

Image copyright Keith Allison

The thing is, all this publicity and media love for LeBron has many parallels with Toyota’s rise to fame in North America. James has thrust himself into the spotlight, and playing in Miami with two other superstars is only going to raise expectations. Consider the following:

  • Both LeBron and Toyota were praised as the best at what they do for the bulk of their careers. Lebron for the last decade (he was being talked about while still in high school), and Toyota for most of the last 30 years.
  • While Lebron and Toyota are demonstrably excellent, they have both enjoyed undeserved accolades at some point. Lebron refers to himself as “King James” despite never winning a title. Up until very recently, Toyota’s reputation for quality was supreme despite documented quality problems like Tundra frame rust, bed bounce, engine sludge, oil line leaks, etc.
  • Both have high profiles around the world. Toyota has consistently been one of the world’s most valuable brands (ranking 6th as recently as 2008), and based on jersey sales, Lebron might be the 2nd most famous active NBA player in the world.

Granted, these parallels are sort of obvious and simplistic, but you get the idea.

Why Toyota Matters To Lebron James

Toyota’s recent acceleration debacle was a result of poor quality, poor decision making, and poor PR. Here’s what Lebron needs to know:

1. Once you say that you’re the best, that’s what the public demands (and they forget everything else). Toyota centered much of it’s advertising and marketing around their reputation for quality. This fostered an image that Toyota quality was #1. However, when Toyota had a quality issue that was incredibly rare (the odds of an acceleration problem were minuscule according to Car & Driver) many members of the public lost patience. Rather than reflecting on Toyota’s 30 years of building quality vehicles, many in the public were demanding congressional investigations and billion-dollar fines.

2. Once a crack is found in a good reputation, the media goes into attack mode. Did Toyota deserve public condemnation for their decision to “negotiate” their way out of a safety recall to save money? You bet. Did they deserve overzealous and irresponsible reporting, outrageous statements from government officials telling people to “stop driving?” Of course not.

Much like Ford’s reputation was crucified following the Firestone tire debacle, Toyota’s reputation has been unfairly besmirched considering NHTSA just reported that they STILL haven’t found a problem with Toyota’s acceleration systems, despite receiving help from NASA scientists. LeBron is popular now, but if he does anything remotely foolish or stupid members of the media will do their best to tear him apart.

3. The public loves to over-react when problems effect big, popular brands. When news hit that Toyota was recalling vehicles because of accelerator pedals that could potentially stick on their own, NHTSA complaints about this problem skyrocketed about 1000%. Here on TundraHQ, commentors were talking about being “nervous” when they saw a Toyota in the rear view mirror. Silly. LeBron can count on the same level of over-the-top hysteria if and/or when he has a problem or fails to produce at expected levels.

4. Your rivals are waiting to tear you down. When Toyota announced a sales freeze in January, GM responded by announcing a $1000 sales incentive targeting Toyota owners, which other automakers quickly copied. While these incentives didn’t seem to boost sales, they DID manage to continue the narrative that something was seriously wrong with Toyota. If LeBron hiccups when it counts, his rivals will be ready.

5. Arrogance is a killer. Toyota definitely didn’t deserve all of the negative publicity they got, but they deserved a lot of it. Toyota’s executives became complacent, their management become bloated and ineffective, and in the days immediately following the sales freeze Toyota’s CEO acted as if there was no problem. By all accounts, LeBron James is an incredibly arrogant young man. While it’s excepted that a professional athlete be cocky, arrogance begets complacency.

This is a little off-topic, but hopefully you found it interesting.

Filed Under: Auto News


RSSComments (12)

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  1. Dennis says:

    Probably the worst thing I have ever read on the internet. Kudos to you sir.

  2. mk says:

    I wish all these overprices sports stars would shut up and do their job for a lot less. If everybody was like me, professional baseball, football, and basketball, among others, would go bankrupt or be forced to offer a much lower salary for what they do since I rarely go see professional sports. If everybody woke up and did not go see these overpriced idiots play ball, the world would be better off. I played sports (football and baseball) and was good at it when younger, but people, especially nowadays, think if you are not in all the sports or watch sports, you are not right in the head. Not everybody can waste their time and money on watching overpriced people who think they are better than the averago Joe and then again, why would you?

  3. Jason says:

    Dennis – Ya, it probably wasn’t too thought out. I humbly accept your criticism, only I think you over-reached when you said “worst thing ever”! 🙂

    mk – I hear you. I’m an NBA fan for sure, but I appreciate where you’re coming from. Sports definitely enjoy too much emphasis in our society.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree Dennis! Toyota is looking to improve their image, sites like this produce false information information is not helping it!

  5. Jason says:

    Anonymous comments are hard to take seriously.

  6. rich says:

    Jason….almost sounds too much like Greg….or is it Greg!

  7. TXTee says:

    Not mad at LeBron at all. They pimped him out and made money off him. Time for him to spread his wings. That’s also what a community gets for building all their hopes in one person or thing.

  8. Jason says:

    TXTee – I think that’s a fair statement. However, you might want to read up on the events that preceded LeBron’s exit…he didn’t ever seem to consider how his decision would impact the franchise that drafted him. At the very least, he could have had the courtesy and good grace to tell the Cavs about his decision before he left.

    Having said that, you are correct in that LeBron had every right to leave. I was wrong to say that he should have stayed in Cleveland. He is free to do whatever he wants, and frankly it’s commendable that his decision wasn’t simply based on money. I would have liked to see him stay, but only because Cleveland wasn’t smart enough to plan for this contingency.

  9. Justin says:

    Dang, another article about Lebron. Okay, the guy is physically gifted, but what has he done in his 7yrs? One NBA championship game and no titles? Two MVP’s that were partly deserved, partly not due to the fan and ref favortism. Haven’t seen a player get so many favorable calls since Jordan played the game. James has had a serviceable team around him, not a bad team but not a great team. Doesn’t look like a “King” to me. Sure he has lined his pockets with $$$ and brought David Stern tons of $$$ too. He is still marketable and most likely will get many more millions (billions?) of $$$ in endorsements now with Miami, than he would have received had he gone to the highest bidding team. So this story about how he took less money to play with Wade and Bosh is BS.

    And this move will never make him the “Greatest Ever”, as he so badly wants to be. Jordan did it with his average to barely above average cast of players. Sure he had a couple good roll players in Pippen and Rodman. It was a good team with a good system, but we saw what they did without MJ those years he went to play baseball. If James does it, it will require an All-Star or Dream Team like lineup to do so. So even if Lebron wins 6 championship, he’ll never be the greatest because it required the likes of Bosh and Wade to get him there. Oh, and I’m not a Jordan fan, more so D. Wilkins, A. English and Magic fan.

    Lastly, James should have done the right thing and at least let Gilbert and the Cavs upper management know he wasn’t coming back prior to the fiasco (announcement). That would have been the right and respectable thing to do. Then again, I can’t be too hard on James for this point, since the majority of sports stars that leave via free agency don’t notify their old team until they are out the door anyways.

  10. Jason says:

    Justin – I’m with you. James could have shared his plan to leave a few weeks ago…that would have given the Cavs a chance to either make a move to try and keep him or start the rebuilding process. They paid Byron Scott a lot of money to coach a mediocre team.

  11. Mickey says:

    It’s all about the money period. Look at the way he announced he was leaving. An hour special? Gimme a break. Not worth it.

  12. Jason says:

    Mickey – Could be. He left some cash on the table in Cleveland, but maybe he’s planning on making it back as a member of the new “big three.”

    After thinking about this for a while, my biggest problem is that Lebron was such an ***hole about the way he left. It’s his right to leave Cleveland…but only a fool does so on an hour-long TV special. If he could have been low-key – and if he could have personally given Cleveland his decision earlier – this wouldn’t have been so disappointing (at least to me).

    Having said that, the pressure is officially ON. Whatever special treatment James might have enjoyed before is GONE. If he screws up – if his new team doesn’t win big – he will face a lot of criticism (just like Toyota).

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