This Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled up this week. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.
Today's subject: This week, both Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM ) and Honda Motor (NYSE: HMC ) announced new recalls. Toyota is pulling back some 750,000 North American cars and trucks including Lexus models. Honda is recalling 470,000 Acura RLs and Odysseys.
All told, the auto industry has initiated 56 recalls in the last six months, CBS News reports. Do the math. About once a month, each of the majors cops to a gaffe, blushes, and then offers to fix it. It'd be funny if it weren't so damn infuriating.
Call the time, Fool. Quality just died on the table.
Even Ford (NYSE: F ) , the newly anointed darling of the auto industry that once claimed quality was its number 1 job has initiated five recalls. Five! Some Ford vehicles also suffer from problems with fires started by their cruise control systems, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration warnings. Yet revenue for Toyota, Honda, and Ford were all up substantially last quarter.
Why you should be indignant: When as a society did we decide its OK to just buy crap on the cheap? Did it coincide with the rise of Wal-Mart? Perhaps, but you can't blame the Waltons for the auto industry's miscues.
I blame ... me. And you. Neither of us is demanding enough. We spend hard-earned money on crappy food, crappy mortgages, crappy entertainment, crappy service, and yes, crappy cars. Can we really blame the auto industry for trying to get away with serving up steaming piles of junk metal these last few years when so few of us investigated what it was we were really leasing?
We got ripped off, and it's at least partly our own fault. We were OK with buying crap.
Let's start the finger pointing with yours truly. Just recently, my wife and I bought a $185 clarinet for our son in a cash deal at the local market. We were thrilled at first. He's in the school band and needed an instrument, but most music stores were quoting us $1,500 for a new clarinet. Finally, we had to settle for a $40/month rental. We didn't have the cash for a new model -- until we went to the market, that is.
Just one day after bringing the tightly wrapped clarinet home, our son took it to school, where it broke. Oh, and we found out it smells like gasoline. Yeah, you read that right. Gasoline. Awesome.
But it's my own fault. I knew $185 was too cheap after the research my wife had done. We bought it to cut corners, and paid the price. Stupid.
Other times, I've simply refused to pull the plug on services that stink. Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH ) tops the list at our house, and judging by its history of suspect sales practices, for good reason.
Meanwhile, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen has a reputation as a cheapskate who won't pay content partners or TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) what they're due. Unfair? I've no idea; I don't know Ergen. All I know is that when I need service on my satellite system for a problem I didn't create, Dish wants to charge me for the privilege of a visit. That, I call cheap.
The only reason I haven't switched from Dish is because I don't want to spend on a new entertainment system. And yet I'm sick of digital video recorders that don't record, and satellite service that conveniently disappears at the moment I'm trying to watch the football game. In my opinion, you're serving up crap, Mr. Ergen, and I've had enough.
But haven't we all? I can't be the only one who's reached his limit.
What now? Frankly, you'd think I would have learned my lesson a long time ago. As an investor I know that quality pays. Quality management beats poor management every time, and often leads to outsized stock returns. An obsessive emphasis on quality is part of what's made Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) a multibagger these last few years.
So as both consumers and investors, let's take a pledge. Say it aloud with me: "I am officially DONE accepting crap. I'm paying for products and services I need, and I expect them to work."
For me, this means no more Toyotas. I'm done buying from an automaker that doesn't respect the time I put into earning the cash needed to buy the Sienna minivan I'm now stuck with because it's paid off. (And because I'm loath to trade it in for more crap.)
Now it's your turn to sound off. Who's stuck it to you? Which products and services are you dropping because of poor quality? Let your voice be heard in the comments box below.