Toyota Recall Case

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Toyota was forced to recall millions of its vehicles in the US and Europe and reports of accelerator defects emerged. The Japanese automotive giant was criticised for putting profits ahead of safety, and an ill-coordinated communications response did not help matters. Toyota’s brand values—reliability, safety and quality—came under sustained scrutiny. Analysis:

“Like most Japanese companies, corporate communications and overall corporate message development, was heavily centralized in Japan,” according to Kreab Gavin Anderson Japan managing partner Deborah Hayden and New York CSR director Mark Boutros. This caught Toyota’s Japan HQ, dominated by its engineer-led, consensual culture, flatfooted. “There was a lack of leadership from Japan, which meant countries had to pick their own strategy in the early days,” explains Porter Novelli corporate practice leader Neil Bayley. “This meant they appeared paralyzed, reacting in different ways across key markets.” “The findings that are emerging from lawsuits are showing that there does not appear to have been a fundamental product problem; at the end of the day Toyota faced a public relations problem,” adds Hayden. Handling a PR problem of this magnitude was not something that Toyota was equipped to do. “The media went chasing Toyota and the eventual press conference, where Mr Toyoda wore a surgical mask, didn’t do the company any favors,” says Bell Pottinger head of issues and crisis management Alex Woolfall. “Sadly, nor did his faltering English.” The press conference itself was held in Nagoya, further inflaming international media sentiment, and was conducted largely in Japanese.
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