MFG 2.0

Toyota Has A Quality Problem In Its PR Department

A friend of mine and I were talking about the idea of blogger-as-activist and its impact on legislative and corporate policy, especially now that social media has been declared the new mass media.

He gave the example of the Queen of Spain, a midwest-based "mommyblog", as an example of this budding class of new influencer. And lo and behold, the mommyblog camp is talking some serious Toyota recall these days:

Toyota is recalling millions of vehicles, and despite being an owner of one of said recalled vehicles, I found out via the news. Yes I tend to panic a bit, but when you hear stories about accelerators getting stuck and families dying, I think I am allowed to panic.

So, she contacted her dealership. The response? Polite, but even more disconcerting:

The very nice service department woman on the other end of the phone informed me that yes, my husband’s car was part of the recall and as a “quick fix” he could remove his floor mat. She also then informed me that it didn’t really matter though, because they don’t have the parts to fix the problem…so she couldn’t schedule an appointment or help me beyond telling me to remove the floor mat. And oh, by the way, once they DID get the parts in, she couldn’t fix our car until we got an “official” recall letter in the mail.

An unpleasant Catch-22 situation to find oneself in, for sure, especially where the family vehicle is concerned.

Toyota issued a statement, which (in part) read: "Our entire organization of 172,000 North American employees and dealership personnel is working around the clock to fix the accelerator pedals for our customers." Such a patently generic (not to mention patently false) PR statement made me remember The Consumerist website's sarcastic "we're taking this very seriously" section (which points out companies lame responses to quality issues -- a section that hasn't been heavy on Toyota news to date) so I checked out what they have to say about the Toyota recall. Sure enough, ouch.

Just a few examples from the raging blogstorm around Toyota's handling of its recall nightmare. (For a quick dose of journalistic objectivity, here's a link to IndustryWeek's continuing coverage as well as a pretty good breakdown of what wasn't handled well, and when, which when combined with the initial quality issue(s), is quickly tarnishing the reputation of one of the most brand-savvy firms in existence. And although Toyota's got more substantive issues to deal with than some bad PR at this point, it begs the question -- yes, they're talking, but are they listening?

TAGS: Innovation
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