Toyota Case Study
Get the facts quickly and manage your risks aggressively. One of the more troubling aspects of Toyota’s recalls (there have been two) has been the company’s differing accounts of the source of the problem. The current recall, covering 4.1 million cars, involves potentially sticky gas pedals. Late in 2009, Toyota also recalled 5.4 million cars whose gas pedals could get stuck on floor mats. Plus, Toyota says there are some cars affected by both problems. (For an interesting technical analysis of some of the issues involved, go here.)
Uncertainty is not an asset, especially when lives could be at stake. A Los Angeles Times investigation, for example, casts doubt on Toyota’s explanation, quoting one auto safety consulting group as saying, "We know this recall is a red herring." (Read Toyota’s position …show more content…
This is one area where Toyota seems to be doing a good job, albeit maybe a year or more too late.
Toyota's National Ad on Recall - January 31, 2010
Two decades ago, when Audi encountered a safety issue similar to Toyota’s, Audi took the position that “it was the driver’s fault,” David Cole, Director of the Center for Automotive Research, told Design News. Coles says that reaction ultimately hurt Audi’s reputation.
Toyota seems to be avoiding the appearance of passing the buck. When pressed by the New York Times about problems that might have been caused by supplier CTS, for example, Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said: “I don’t want to get into any kind of a disagreement with CTS. Our position on suppliers has always been that Toyota is responsible for the cars.”
Accountability matters enormously. Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 recall of its painkiller Tylenol, following the deaths of seven people in the Chicago area, has earned it a permanent place in the annals of crisis management. But that recall stemmed from the deadly act of an outsider (who has never been caught), not any problem with the product itself, as is the case with