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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Introducing the new Toyota Mea Culpa for 2010.

So this is the part where I probably should backtrack on the one claim that I thought Toyota and Honda have owned regarding Detroit for the past two decades or so: Quality. Not just yet.* As such, Toyota has announced it has been cleared by the government to start replacing the pedals as soon as possible. (You only have to hear the 911 call of the state trooper and his family killed in a Lexus to know that the company needs to give this the highest priority.)

They’ll likely respond over the next few weeks with a huge PR blitz, one that includes news reports showing dealers replacing the parts. Maybe company CEO Akio Toyoda goes on YouTube. (And is it even a question in a post-Domino’s employee pizza fiasco age that a CEO nowadays takes their case directly to the YT?) Meanwhile, the social media blogosphere will use this for weeks as yet another case study in how to address a fail.

So my only take is that they will likely take a HUGE short-term hit on both the profit and goodwill side of things. The biggest PR negs against them right now?

1) The claim that they knew about the problem all along.
2) A weak mea culpa to this point, bordering on “No comment.” (Plus, “Sorry for the “anxiety?”)
3) A denial by their U.S. pedal manufacturer that they’re to blame which puts the focus solely on Toyota.

The net result in my opinion is that they survive. But it costs them a lot. This massive recall and the coming PR push uses up most if not all the good will the company has amassed with customers and the public to this point, and puts them even with Detroit over the next year.**

*Even though I own a 2004 and the thought of a stuck pedal crosses my mind, I’ve put 160,000+ miles on it driving in every condition imaginable without a single accelerator issue.

**Provided Detroit doesn’t pull any more bush league stunts by capitalizing on a competitor’s recall.

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