Recently, while sitting behind Yoshi Inaba in Sen. Jay Rockefeller's Senate hearing on the Toyota recall, I watched and listened intently as Sen. Mark Begich from Alaska asked Inaba how his constituents in the Alaska tundra, miles from civilization, could get their Toyotas repaired. Inaba calmly answered, "We will ask our dealers to take care of them."
Of course Toyota will ask its dealers, and of course the dealers will take care of those customers, just as they always have. Retail automobile dealers are the face of the manufacturer to the public. That split second when a potential customer first interacts with a dealer -- in person, via the Internet or by phone -- is called the moment of truth.
In that instant the dealer becomes the face of Toyota or General Motors or Chrysler or Honda to that customer. From then on, the customer relies on the dealer -- not a company in Torrance or Detroit -- to arrange credit and purchase a vehicle, get service, buy parts or have a vehicle repaired under recall. Just how such moments are handled determines whether a consumer has a positive or negative reaction toward not only the dealership but the manufacturer.