A look at just about any California road or freeway will tell you that Toyota is a popular brand here, in a state with probably more cars on the road than anywhere else in the U.S. And, there is no doubt that Southwest Airlines is a favorite for Socal residents making their way to Las Vegas or a dozen or more other points in the Southwest on any given day. Yet, in different ways, both Toyota and Southwest have let their customers down, especially here.
By now, who doesn't know about the massive Toyota recalls: more than 8.5 million of its vehicles around the world recalled for a variety of problems.
Now, according to a Reuters dispatch late Monday, the company even faces a U.S. criminal probe, having been served a federal grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. Akio Toyoda, whose grandfather founded the company and who now runs it from Japan, is to testify before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday.
Toyota was slow in responding to consumer concerns and complaints, and some in Congress, like Henry Waxman of California, voice concern that Toyota might still not be coming clean to the American public.
Last week, I reported on KNX Newsradio that a Southwest plane, which the FAA said was off course by some 30 degrees, was briefly on a collision course with a private plane over the skies near Burbank. The Southwest plane had to so violently get out of the way of the other aircraft that the severe movements of the big jet injured two flight attendants, one seriously. This very serious incident, which is now being investigated by both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, happened two days before my on-air report. While the airline reported the incident to authorities, it didn't to the public. Or, for that matter, apparently, to the shaken passengers on the flight in question.
It was not until one of those passengers wrote her account for the Huffington Post and voiced her anger at Southwest on KNX that a spokeswoman for Southwest informed me that the airline intended to call each and everyone of the 80 passengers on board the wayward flight to offer an "apology" and to express its sorrow.
Both Toyota and Southwest are companies that gained customers based, in large measure, on the good will they created over many years, encouraging the perception that they offered superior products and/or service.
That is why many SoCal drivers feel so betrayed by Toyota, and why the passenger I spoke with on board that Southwest flight was so dismayed by the apparent lack of concern the airline displayed after the incident was over. She said no one from Southwest ever bothered to tell passengers, even in the baggage area, what had caused the violent disturbance on the 737 jet.
Their customers have come to expect so much more from Toyota and Southwest. They deserve so much better treatment.
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has covered police and politics in Los Angeles since 1995. He is a regular contributor of investigative reports to KNX 1070 Newsradio and is a private pilot who has reported on many aviation related stories.