September 26, 2006
Branding and Kaizen: It's Not Just About the Batteries
The recent exploding battery issue faced by Sony, Dell, and Apple (and now Toshiba and Panasonic) is not helping the worldwide perception of Japanese brand names, while giving a serious boost to Asian competitors such as Samsung and LG.
The quality problems have spilled into the motor industry as well, with auto-giant Toyota also calling back millions of poorly made cars, (2.2 million of them in 2005 vs 200,000 in 2003) and even into the food industry.
Indeed, Korea’s Samsung plans on taking Sony’s place as the second largest battery maker in the world within the next few months and Hyundai can barely conceal its delight at Toyota’s failings.
The Japanese conception of “kaizen” or “improvement” is so central to the Japanese national identity - and for years so well represented in the craftsmanship of Sony and Toyota products - that the recent damage done to these brand names has caused a national furor and a suspicion that “something is amiss in Japan.”
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