Trials and Travails of Toyota: “Schadenfreude,” anyone?


I Break for Schadenfreude
or years, Ford, Chrysler, and especially GM suffered from the revered status of Toyota in the eyes of consumers. Toyota set the quality bar so high that American automakers always seemed to fall short.

Toyota led the Japanese invasion of the American market, taking away more and more market share from the domestic car makers. Toyota was able to weather the global recession, while GM and Chrysler survived only by going on the dole.

Maybe no more. Toyota’s whopping recall of millions of cars and trucks—along with alleged obfuscations—have tarnished the car company’s bright image. It remains to see how this will affect sales.

How are American car execs feeling about Toyota’s comeuppance? By sheer accident, I recently had a conversation with a retired GM executive and his wife. How did they feel?

In their own words, they felt “schadenfreude.” I had to admit that I didn’t know what the word meant. I had to look it up. Here’s what the online Merriam-Webster dictionary says: Schadenfreude is a noun in German for “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” Its etymology is Schaden for “damage” + Freude for “joy.”

I bet a lot of folks in the Detroit auto industry feel schadenfreude—joy in the damage to Toyota’s reputation and its likely economic repercussions.

How about you? Do you feel schadenfreude?

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