Yesterday, we introduced you to a matte-black LFA and a baby-blue sticker that led us to the car’s owner. There was another sticker on that car. A round red one. If the global automotive industry should copy anything from Japan immediately and now, then it’s that round sticker.
Eons before social networks came upon us, the automotive industry became obsessed with maintaining customer relationships, creating traffic and maintaining customer loyalty in showrooms and service departments. Bazillions have been spent for that effort. Millions of them went into my pocket, which, years after leaving the lucrative business, still enables me to work for TTAC and not go hungry. The ingenious Japanese solved it all with that sticker.
The officious-looking sticker is known in Japan as the “tenken-seibi stecker,” or the annual service sticker. Don’t confuse it with that vague “Next service by” sticker your shop leaves in your door, only to be ignored. The tenken-seibi sticker reminds car owners in Japan of their legal obligation to have that check done. It’s the law. Toyoda-san is not above the Japanese law, and the reddish round stecker reminds him that his check is due by December this year.
According to Japanese law, each car must be checked periodically. This has nothing to do with the mandatory, government-administered Shaken mentioned yesterday. Every twelve months, a pretty involved check must be performed.
Legally, you can do that yourself. You won’t. DIY is frowned-upon in Japan. I recently joked that “in Japan, people call an electrician to change a light bulb.” That earned me a quizzical look and a “what’s wrong with that?”
For the tenken-seibi, one drives to the friendly place of regular service, says “tenken-seibi kudasai” and some $130 later, the check is performed and that sticker is placed in the windshield. Or not. This is when it gets really lucrative for the shop. Customer relationships are kept, loyalties have been maintained and refreshed, and all with a slick little sticker.
While the check is mandatory by law, carrying the sticker is not. But this is Japan, and everybody has one. The sticker is issued by members of the Japanese Motor Service Industry Association, which obtained special governmental permission to stick that on your windshield. This is Japan, you can’t just put anything on your window, who do you think you are?
Again, while the check is the law, the sticker is not actually required, nobody stops, or arrests you for not having one. It is not even clear what happens if you did not do the check. But the whole scheme performs miracles for the business, keeps service bays occupied, and dealers afloat during times that suck.
But you have not seen it all.
While studying the law, you will notice that you must perform a daily, yes, daily 12 point check of the essential items of your Japanese motor vehicle, from brake and engine all the way to the windshield wiper. Don’t dare to start your car without checking, for instance, the “waipagomu,” that’s wiper gummis to us gaijin.
There is no sticker for that 12 point pre-flight, but there are involved websites that explain how it is done.