Malaysia and the story of Toyota

My first car was a Toyota Corolla, model KE 30, and I bought it new after my housemanship for a princely sum of Rm11,500 in 1978.

That car was  not equipped with air conditioner, although there was a very basic radio and cassette player. CDs was not invented yet.  During that era, we were still using turn tables to play records three times the size of a CD.

Proton Saga was not around yet and maybe that was the reason that car was still relatively affordable. But unlike now, when you can practically go to a new car dealer and just give a few hundred dollars for deposits and get almost 99% loan financing, we had to save up about 20% of the cost of the car for down payment, before any banks or finance companies would approve your loan.

The car ran superbly. Until the time when I sold it in 1986, almost 8 years later, it had never once broke down in the middle of the road. I had no worry; every morning I just jumped into the car and without fail, the car would star when I turned the ignition.

In 1982, I came down to KL and my Corolla was stolen in one of the Pudu back lanes. Since public transport was almost as bad as now, and I stayed 13 kilometers from where I worked, I had to get a second hand car, a European brand  (which I bought for only 3000, believe it or not).

Compared to my Corolla, this car  was horrible, breaking down so regularly that I had lost counts of the times that I had to leave it at road sides and took a taxi home.

The police took a few  months to finally recovered my Corolla , found in Jalan Brunei area by a vigilant policeman on beat, who found that the number plate and the number of the car on the road tax disc was different. (Just to side track, that is why it is important for policemen to go on beats).

I thanked God for getting the car back and faithfully used it until 1986.

The point I wanted to make is that Toyota, even though very basic then, was reliable and you can count on it to move from one place to another without fail.

Driving a Toyota , you will have the peace of mind that it would not break down  in the middle of highways where a stalled car can be such a nuisance and embarrassment, or in some remote areas where you would not be able to get help easily and you would worry about your own safety sitting inside a stalled car..

It is this peace of mind and reliability that become the hallmark of Toyota.

Slowly and steadily, Toyota built up a world wide network and reputation of reliability.

Until of course, recently, when the company started to face some very serious problems.  It has to recall 8 million cars world-wide to fix certain problems with the floor mats as well as the accelerator pedals.

Hearing the news of the recall, my first impression was that it has perhaps grown too big and bulky; in trying to make too many cars , its QC sections have failed to catch up and match up with its sales and marketing arms.

It is indeed dangerous to drive a car with an accelerator pedal glued to the floor. Little wonder that upon the announcement of  the recall, its sales plunged  and its share price dropped steeply.

However, do not write the company off.  It has a culture of excellence and even though excellence  has somehow been compromised, it  still practices transparency and accountability and volunteers to recall all faulty cars.

Malaysia too was growing steadily and impressively in the 60s, 70s and even the 80s. Together with other little tigers of Asia, we were the Toyotas of the World. We were looked upon as models of the Third World.

Like Toyota, we made impressive strides– until official policies skewed the whole economy and changed the whole culture from that of striving for excellence to that of ‘cronyism and patronage’, and the whole system becomes so corrupted that the Corruption perception index has deteriorated yearly until now we are deemed to be one of the most corrupted in Asia.

While Toyota has always practiced accountability, we have been sweeping everything under the carpets, including many instances of mismanagement and scandals.

While Toyota has identified the problems, been transparent about them, and announced to recall all faulty cars and fix them, we know about the problems but try to ignore  or at least belittle them.  We try to use gloss paints to paint over all our problems and telling the people that everything will turn out to be nice and good. We are not bothered that underneath the glossy surface, the rots have taken roots.

We try to use all sorts of methods, including compromising the integrity of our institutions,  to cover up the problems. By doing so, we  created more problems trying to cover up  the earlier problems. It has become a vicious cycle. The rots sink deeper and deeper. We do not have the determination or the political will to break the cycle.

We have been loitering around the middle rungs of the world economic ladder for a long time, while those who started at the same time as us have gone much further and higher , while those who were behind and below us have also levelled with us and some have gone past us .

I think we need to  learn a thing or too from Toyota. Perhaps we should really look East instead of just paying lip service.

We need to learn from the Toyota’s courage and determination to right the wrongs, to face its problems head-on, instead of trying to avoid them.

Toyota knows that for the short term,  the company’s fortune and shares would be affected by the massive recall of cars, but in the long run, by publicly admitting and rectifying the faulty areas, the company will  get to a even firmer footing to launch itself higher and further than its rivals .

Ironically, by admitting and rectifying the faults, it sends a message that the company practices good after sales service and that the company puts customers’ safety above all else, including the Company’s reputation and fortune.

We should do the same.

Perhaps it is time to convene  a National Consultative council, like the one we have in the seventies. Identify the problems in economy, education, race relationship, religious differences and other areas.

We must have the courage to do away with self denial and  stand up to face the problems. We must discuss frankly and wholeheartedly what have gone wrong and identify the problems  and rectify the wrongs.

Like Toyota, we should be prepared for temporary hardship in order to launch ourselves further and higher. Like Toyota, we should look further ahead. Like Toyota, we  should let the people know that we put their interests above all else.

Like Toyota, we should realise that to go back to excellence that we have lost, we need to be transparent and accountable, and overhaul the whole system with input from all quarters to right all the wrongs. We need to face all our problems head-on and solve them.

That is the only way forward, for without pain, there will be no gain.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. msan
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 15:12:35

    Yes, corruption is the bane of this lovely Country. The present Government is too far gone and has no political will to take the necessary action to rectify all the wrongs. Neither will the Warlords allow any changes even if the top leadership appears to want to effect changes.

    The flight of our Human Capital is now at critical proportions, but the Government is like the proverbial Ostrich sticking its head in the sand and seeing nothing.

    Until and unless there is a change in Government, this Country will continue sliding into the abyss.


  2. clearwater
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 15:53:38

    Unfortunately, Malaysia is no Toyota whose transparent management runs the company for the long term interest of its shareholders. Toyota will no doubt fix its problems and regain its lustre in time. Its culture will help it to be enduring and to overcome adversity. Management, workers, suppliers, contractors, distributors etc will all work together to resolve their current quality issues.

    Malaysia on the other hand is run by selfish politicians whose primary interest is looking after #1. I cannot say when or even if Malaysia can ever recover from its recurring nightmare. I am hoping after GE13 or around 3/2013 but even then so many things can continue to go wrong. Who is working together to fix Malaysia now?


  3. CYC
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 16:10:16

    Our pain tolerance level is so low that we virtually hope there will be some remedial action which need not to endure pain at all. Unfortunately we are not smart enough to to identify any solution in that nature.

    We prefer to glorify successes and hide failures. Look at the useless politicians around and u know why the country is going down hill. Even though very well 1Malaysia is just an empty slogan and New Economic Model will not succeed without prior reforming the education and other policies, yet they trumpeting these 2 dumb propaganda tools. Mind u, one of the top supporter is KTK who hold a PhD and supposedly a leader with rakyat’s welfare at heart.

    I m anti Gerakan as this is a party supposedly lead by a group of elites but demonstrated total bankrupt of ideas and guts to address the predicament of the rakyats. Its hypocrisy of the highest order. Sorry Dr Hsu that i have to put this in writing even though it may hurt u as well.


  4. Dr Hsu
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 16:32:27

    it is alright with me as I am also fighting to push my ideas there.


  5. cilipadi
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 17:24:50

    Sodomy is against the Malaysian law, but
    Political sodomy is perfectly alright in Malaysian law, look at 5-0 judgment of your highest court.

    When look into a asshole, you look with one eye, clearer. Very true. 5-0 shows that.

    Sodomy makan cili, Perak sodomy rasa pedas


  6. pilocarpine
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 21:58:15

    Personally, I felt Gerakan is the party that aspires to have the people’s welfare in its heart, but sadly, some people in it couldn’t really put their mind and soul into it.

    Gerakan is at the mercy of the others in the BN.
    at times, KTK has no choice.


  7. Meng
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 22:12:21

    If the government is rotten..right down the line all government linked institution are rotten..proton included…

    Which government dept excel??


  8. Meng
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 22:14:07


    You must be an expert in peeping into ar**holes.


  9. disgusted
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 22:53:22


    My Toyota is 25 years old, bought it in 1986.


  10. kassim
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 23:29:18

    We must kick out BN/UMNO in GE13. There is no other alternative.

    Raja Petra said, “Umno’s job is to retain power by hook or by crook and at whatever cost to the nation, democracy, justice, fair play and whatnot. The ends justify the means. It is not how you play the game but winning that counts.”

    More info at


  11. ahoo
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 10:47:42

    The beauty of Malaysian service industry is such that despite the worldwide recall of over 8 million cars, Malaysia seems to be not affected at all. We wonder what is it that causes others to suffer lost and have the cars recalled yet our local agent / distributor don’t even mumble a word.

    I think Malaysian may be too submissive to date and have reach a level of apathy until something drastic happen like death etc. After some screaming and calling for heads to roll, we are back to status quo.

    In the civil services, that is exactly the same scenario. Whenever something unpleasant happened such a corruption or a scandal to the tune of billions, we are angry for that moment. We must be angry enough to want a change in the govt for our future generation sake. Those who are corrupted in the ruling regime must be brought to face justice as this nation cannot allows unhindered plundering to take place. Do what it takes to convince others that this nation must be saved from morons at all cost by voting wisely the next round.


  12. CYC
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 11:53:13


    KTK already has his 20 odd years, both as CM as well as VP. If he can’t do it, why not resign and give other a chance. Do away with the rotten attitude of the century old China man who “occupy the toilet but not shitting” .

    All the Chinese base party and organization are rotten and fighting for position, from Dong Zhong to Chamber of commerce, to Hua zhong, all resembles the same attitude seeking for fame and personal glory. Those who really aspire to work for the community being sidelined unless u join the power to be circle. Mind u , this happened in Dong Zhong, an educationist organization who trumpeting their aspiration for fair education opportunity. But their leadership is anything but not fair in treating young aspirants.


  13. Dr Hsu
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 12:32:37

    U hit the nail at its head.

    Many CHinese NGOs are like that… occupied by afew who will use their manupulative skills to prevent any one trying to bring reform. SImilarly with many schools boards. They are good in infighting, good in trying to get near the centre of power , like PM, ministers MCA presidents and so on. But they do not reflect the views and wishes of the grassroots members.


  14. cilipadi
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 12:51:40

    These as*holes are smelly, yet many still want to squeeze in, KTK is one of them, definitely.

    Malaysians can stand, I cannot

    KTK makan cili, a**hole rasa pedas


  15. ong
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 16:35:16

    CYC (on February 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm),

    Dr. Hsu have one thing in common with Tengku Razaleigh . They both have heads that are made from the highest grade steel. Both have been banging their heads against concrete walls. The walls haven’t given way. Neither have their two heads been broken.


  16. 1MY
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 10:47:23

    Toyota finally admit to fault in their accelerator pedal for their Hybrid car and recall million of cars as there were deaths (at least 6) linked to this mechanical failure. Initially they try to divert public attention and blame it on the slippery floor mat.

    Now a team of 14 lawyers in US is preparing to sue Toyota over this matter. Well, be ready to pay US20 million per life. That’s US$120 million.

    Of course, westerner life are always many2 times expensive than Asian. If this happen in Asia, you think Toyota will apologize or …. . I bet Toyata will just covered up this issue.


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