Archive for February 1, 2011

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (including its Lexus and Scion divisions) is getting pretty good at talking out of both sides of its corporate pie hole.  In a letter to its sales and customer service employees (many of whom work at HQ in Torrance), Toyota says:

We need to continue to align our staffing and organizational structure to fit our future needs and growth.

They go on to say:

This is strictly a voluntary program and there is no specific target for the number of slaves associates who will participate in this program.

What a load of crap.  Let me get this straight:  Toyota plans on future growth but it’s going to do it all with fewer employees.  Hum.  Most employees already work much longer hours than called for in their contracts, just to handle the existing work. Now fewer people will get paid the same salary to handle even more work.  Shut up and be happy you have a job, right?  It’s a very familiar refrain in corporate America these days.  You need to work harder, be more productive, be a “team player” and work way more than 40 hours a week and then you settle for reduced benefits and no raises – not even cost-of-living.  Corporate profits soar, executive salaries increase as do bonuses.  I believe it’s called corporate slavery.

Sure, we all know Toyota had a bad 2010, with all those pesky recalls and revelations that Toyota knew about some of the problems long before it was forced to recall millions of cars.  But the good news is that sales are booming again in January 2011 and in 2011, Toyota hopes to make up for lost 2010 sales.

A 2010 Toyota Prius. I bet you can get a cheap lease deal on a 2011 model!

Customers are understandably angry. First, the safety issues and then the reliability problems degraded residual values and put more people upside down in their loans.  Next, Toyota flooded the market with cheap lease and finance deals that undercut all its previous deals, once again killing residual values on just about every model, including the vaunted Prius 4-wheel refrigerator.

A 2009 Toyota Camry

So how do you reward those front line people who dealt with those problems?  Well, you ask them to leave, nicely.  And to that end, the severance package appears pretty generous:  You get a one-time “transition assistance payment” of $20,000, and two weeks salary for each year employment and an additional lump sum payment of 10 weeks salary.

This would be generous in a better economy.  Once you take the buyout, if you’re not retiring, where do you go? Good jobs aren’t plentiful these days. And what if you need the medical insurance benefits that also disappeared with your job?   It’s not like neighbor Honda is hiring.   Nissan said f-u to So Cal a few years ago and relocated to a suburb outside Nashville, TN.  Who wants to go there?  Subaru’s sales are booming, but unlike other Asian manufacturers, its corporate headquarters is in Cherry Hill, NJ – near BMW and Mercedes-Benz.  Last year, VW moved all its US corporate functions from Michigan to Herndon, VA – not exactly near Torrance.

And while you can buy a house in Detroit for almost nothing, do you really want to move your family there even if you could get a job at one of the Detroit 3?  It’s not like the schools are great in Detroit.  So many people have abandoned Detroit that the City has had to close half its schools. Wonderful. Welcome to the Goldman Sachs economy of the 21st Century. Wall Street and the banks are doing very well, thank you.

The only logical move for these employees is to Hyundai with HQ offices in Fountain Valley or sister brand Kia, based in Irvine — IF they are hiring.

Then there is the elephant in the room:  What happens if not enough people take the buyout?  Toyota is silent on that point, but you all know, it will come down to more lay-offs.   The only thing “good” about firing employees is that Wall Street will upgrade your stock and applaud management for cost cutting, no matter the human cost.  Bonuses to management.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Toyota adopted Google’s corporate motto: Don’t be Evil.  I’m not holding my breath.

Evil Toyota?