Television and radio advertising for Toyota Ireland (Toyota) made a common claim to the effect that Toyota were “The Best Built Cars in the World”.
A number of consumer complaints were received in relation to the claim. They centred on the question of compatibility of the claim with the widely publicised recalls.
In response, Javelin Advertising, the agency for the advertisers, detailed what Toyota considered to be the key elements of their success and also submitted a range of publications and reports from a variety of international locations which they said provided substantiation for the claims that were made in the advertising and these were as follows:
• Toyota dominates annual quality awards and value for money rankings.
• Toyota vehicles are known for holding their value better than its competitors’ products.
• Toyota enjoys unparalleled customer loyalty across all major markets.
• The company is profitable in all vehicle segments, a feat that most industry observers would have said was impossible around the turn of the century.
• Toyota have literally revolutionised manufacturing, process engineering, and quality, setting new standards for operational excellence.
• Toyota has changed the way that a large portion of the world thinks about quality and how to continuously improve any process. Today, nearly every large manufacturing organisation, regardless of its sector or country, at least speaks the jargon of built – in quality, lean, and just-in-time operation, although only a select few have carried the concepts to anything approaching the level that Toyota has.
They also referred to the following publications and reports as part of the substantiation.
Publications and Reports
• Daniel T. Jones, The Machine that Changed the World 1990 and 2007.
• Jeffrey Liker, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles (2004).
• Shimizu and Takeuchi Osono, Extreme Toyota: Radical contradictions that drive success at the world’s best manufacturer (2008).
• Jeffrey Liker, Toyota Under Fire: How Toyota faced the challenges of the recall and the recession to come out stronger (2011).
• Philip Markesberry, The Modern Theory of the Toyota Production System: A systems inquiry of the world’s most emulated and profitable management system (2012).
Javelin also provided the following information/documents:
• Updated statements from Professor Daniel T. Jones and Dr Jeffrey Liker that their views, supporting the Toyota claim had not changed.
• Information on recalls for all major motor manufacturers which they asserted showed that an impression created in the media that Toyota had more recalls than other manufacturers was not the case.
• Information on the Toyota policy of ‘Kaizen’ or change for the better that detailed the personnel and process changes that had been introduced since 2010 and 2012.
• Documentation relevant to the Techniseher Überwachungs-Verein1 (Technical Inspection Association) TUV report from Germany indicating that Toyota was the most successful auto brand in 2014 for the fourth consecutive year.
• J.D. Power and Associates Surveys related to vehicle dependability for the US ownership and consumer satisfaction surveys for Germany, Brazil and the UK.
Javelin Advertising also referred to the consumer reports (based on 1.1 million vehicles 2014) of The National Research Centre, US, which showed that Toyota were the most reliable car for the eighth year in a row.
Independent Expert Advice
The ASAI Secretariat sought independent expert advice on the substantiation provided by Javelin. This advice was provided by an independent expert academic working in the area of Transport and Engineering. The expert was asked to comment on the claim in the context of mass produced cars and in context of ‘super’ cars such as Ferrari, Rolls Royce, etc.
He said that while he was not satisfied that a claim that a particular Toyota car was better built than cars such as Ferrari, Rolls Royce etc. (which he described as super cars) had been substantiated, he considered that Toyota had substantiated a claim to be the best built mass produced cars in the world.
The ASAI sought comprehensive information on recalls for Toyota, and a range of other large manufacturers, in order to address the relative position of Toyota and the effect of the claim to be “The best built cars in the world.” It was not possible, however, to obtain comprehensive figures for the main market on the rate of recalls for the main manufacturers. The independent expert confirmed that, from his research, comprehensive comparative figures were not available for the main international automotive markets. In addition, however, he said that the question of recalls, which have generally increased for all major manufacturers, had to be put in context and that the significant increase in recalls industry wide did not equate to a build quality problem in the automotive industry. In fact, he said that studies from J.D. Power2 and Associates indicated that both initial quality and long term reliability had never been better.
The independent expert also referred to published work in the area from Frank Schwope3 , and Robert E. Cole4 , which supported this approach.
Further comments from advertisers:
When asked to comment on the claim in the context of ‘super cars’, Javelin Advertising said that they considered it to be clear that the claim was not referring to super cars or specialist or one off cars but rather to mass produced cars. They considered that there was no possibility of customers being confused by this and said that it would be more confusing to include any limiting wording to the effect that Toyota’s claim did not extend to a comparison with one off super luxury cars. They also wished to point out that Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Maserati, Hummer or other luxury cars were not within the reach of over 99% of Irish consumers for economic reasons and that such cars were known for their prestige and expensive price tags rather than their build quality.
Javelin Advertising then posed a proposition of a claim by an airline to provide the fastest transportation between the USA and Europe. They suggested that a marketing claim based on this could not be regarded as misleading because a particular private jet or military aircraft, available to less than 1% of the population could make a faster crossing.
Following the same approach they again suggested that based on the current statistics for the demand for luxury cars, the marketing claim by Toyota to be “The best built cars in the world” when taken into consideration with the views of the independent expert, could not be regarded as misleading.
3 A Hanover, Germany-based analyst at Nord LB.
4 Professor Emeritus, Haas School of Business and Dept. Sociology, UC Berkley and Research Associate, ITEC, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints, the advertisers’ responses and the information provided by them and the opinion from the independent motor industry expert.
The Committee acknowledged the information demonstrating the quality of the manufacturing process used by Toyota and the various awards that their cars had achieved including J.D. Power, TUV and the Consumer Reports from the National Research Centre in the US.
They also acknowledged the expert’s view that the claim had been substantiated in relation to the ‘best built mass produced cars in the world’.
They considered, however, that a very high level of substantiation would be required to prove a ‘superlative’ claim such as ‘best built’ particularly in the context of it being ‘in the world’.
In this context, the Committee considered that it was difficult to envisage the circumstances in which a claim of this magnitude could ever be fully proven. They noted that no independent tests evaluating all the car brands available in the world had been submitted.
The Complaints Committee considered that the claim ‘Best built cars in the world’ had not been substantiated, was not in compliance with the Code and they upheld the complaints.
The claim should not be used again.