Toyota’s Crisis Management Runs Flat

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    A reputation at risk

    Toyota just can’t get out of recall trouble. Some three years after the first runaway acceleration problems forced Toyota to begin recalling various models, the company is calling back two different versions of its RX SUV because their floor mats can trap the gas pedal down, sending the cars out of control. And this just weeks after other models were recalled for the risk of potential fires.

    Obviously this is a huge risk to not only Toyota drivers and their families, but also everyone around them. Compounding the crisis, Toyota is once again facing investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as to whether it informed authorities to potential safety problems in a timely manner. Here’s more on the situation, from a Huffington Post article by Tom Krishner:

    If NHTSA decides to open an investigation, it wouldn’t be the first dustup between Toyota and the agency. In 2010 and 2011, Toyota paid a record $48.8 million in fines to the government for failing to promptly alert regulators to safety problems.

    Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said the company is cooperating with NHTSA and provided information in a timely manner after investigators asked for it.

    Owners of the Lexus SUVs should take out the driver’s side floor mat and have their vehicles serviced as quickly as possible, NHTSA said.

    They will be notified of the problem by mail in early August, and dealers will fix it for free, Toyota said.

    Let’s see…you’re trying to convince the NHTSA and the public that safety is your utmost concern…but you’ll allow the owners of those runaway vehicle candidates to drive around for another full month (Tom’s HuffPost article was published 6/29) before they receive any type of notification.

    Rebuilding a reputation that’s fallen flat is not about how you talk the talk Toyota, you’ve got to walk the walk (drive the drive?). Put real effort into making sure people are as safe as possible and it will show. Drag this crisis out for much longer, and the brand may fall too far to recover. If the name “Toyota” is inextricably associated with the word “recall,” it’s game over.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training, and co-host of The Crisis Show. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]