Commentary: Toyota will have to rebuild its reputation

Toyota's sluggish response to widespread safety defects is triggering cognitive dissonance in many Kentuckians.

That's the term for the "oh, what a feeling" you get when two sharply conflicting sets of facts are duking it out in your mind.

In one corner, there's the Toyota we've come to know since the Japanese automaker opened its first North American plant in Georgetown 20 years ago.

This is the Toyota that empowers every single worker to pull the andon cord and stop the assembly line if a concern about quality arises. The Toyota that year after year rolled out award-winning Camrys, most of which are still on the road. The employer and corporate citizen that contributed hugely to this region's well-being.

In the opposite corner, there's the Toyota that we've met just recently.

This is the company whose leaders waited until U.S. regulators were breathing down their necks to own up to life-threatening defects in millions of vehicles. The Toyota whose disappointing response is injuring a brand that's been synonymous with reliability.

Kentucky has a huge stake in how the company comes out of this crisis — and which Toyota prevails in the public's mind.

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