Management Team Decision
To Pay or Not to Pay
Toyota used to sit on top of the world. It basked in the reputation of building high-quality cars efficiently. It enjoyed unprecedented growth, even surpassing General Motors as the largest car manufacturer in the world. But all of that came tumbling down with reports that cars were accelerating out of control, careening down highways, and putting everyone’s lives in danger. There was even a recording of a 911 call from an off-duty policeman who lost control of his car and died in the ensuing crash. Toyota responded with a recall of historic proportions—nearly 8 million cars in the United States and 1.8 million in Europe. It even suspended sales of brand new models, including the best-selling Camry and Corolla, until the vehicles could be repaired. But still, there was confusion about what was causing the problems—was it the floor mats, the braking system, the software controlling the engine, or something else? Conspiracy theorists argued that Toyota had no clue what was causing the sudden acceleration and that their recall was basically worthless.
By early 2009, your company was in a situation it had not faced for decades—its sales had dropped by 16 percent. Even General Motors, the bankrupt General Motors, which looked like it could do nothing right for many years, grew 8 percent during the same time. According to some journalists, the recall cost Toyota more than $2 billion. But by March 2010, things seemed to be on the rebound. Sales picked up dramatically, 35 percent from the previous year, and 88 percent from the previous month. Customers were once again buying Toyotas and putting their confidence in its ability to produce reliable cars. But just as things seemed to be rosy again, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans to levy a fine of $16.4 million against your company. The money itself isn’t necessarily a problem. Even with losses, Toyota still made $1.8 billion in the