Tampa, FL (Vocus) February 23, 2010
It's the latest PR nightmare for Toyota in what has been a string of bad news for the auto giant. Documents turned over to a Congressional committee show a Toyota executive apparently gloating about how the carmaker saved $100-million by negotiating with U.S. regulators for a more limited recall of some Toyota models.
That recall was for the 2007 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES models for sudden acceleration, which eventually led to the recall of millions of cars.
"Toyota is allowing the media to discover these things and that's not good for Toyota. They need to get out in front of this," says Glenn Selig, founder of The Publicity Agency (http://www.thepublicitygency.com ), a firm that specializes in crisis management PR. "Toyota knew that document was in there. Why in the world would they not put that information out before the media discovered it. As long as the media drives this story, instead of the automaker, Toyota will continue to be in a world of hurt."
Selig says the news may have been damaging for Toyota to release, but then at least the company can explain the context of what was said and why. In so doing, they pre-empt the 'discovery' and it shows they are not trying to hide anything or hope no one finds the document.
In the document, Toyota said it had "negotiated an equipment recall" without a finding of a defect, saving the company $100-million. Rather than be required to fix the cars, Toyota recalled 55,000 all-weather floor mats, sold as optional equipment, which it said could become lodged under the accelerator pedal.
It's popular now to be anti-Toyota and the U.S. government is jumping on that train, when the government may be in part to blame for allowing a scaled-down recall. The government has been trying to spin the story to favor itself, says Selig.
"Unfortunately, this document is very telling," Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department, was quoted as saying on Businessweek.com. "We’re going to hold Toyota’s feet to the fire and make sure they do what's necessary."
Toyota has since announced a multitude of additional recalls that could cost the company more than $2 billion.
The carmaker’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, is set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday. A Senate committee will meet on Toyota next week.
For information about the crisis management PR firm, The Publicity Agency, please visit http://thepublicityagency.com/crisis_management_pr.htm.
Email: justin (at) thepublicityagency (dot) com
Phone: (813) 708-1220 x7778
Email: glenn (at) thepublicityagency (dot) com
Phone: (813) 708-1220 x7777