With its recall reaching a total of 8.5 million vehicles on Tuesday, Toyota is striving to redeem itself in the eyes of its customers and to work damage control overtime in the wake of congressional and government investigations.
Toyota’s lawyers are trying to learn all they can about where the investigations are headed, in addition to learning from the past of experiences of companies who have and have not come out the other end of similar whirlwind crises. Presently, Toyota is keeping the meat of its plans confidential, as the automaker has declined to discuss its plans in detail. However, the company has hired additional lobbyists, lawyers and PR experts in an attempt to reinforce its damage control team. The company is hoping that its team, working in conjunction with regulators and lawmakers, can move toward a “successful recall effort” collaboratively.
In addition to the 440,000 Priuses recalled on Tuesday, other headlines plagued Toyota’s efforts to steer the public eye away from the damage and towards renewed confidence. State Farm reported that it had informed federal regulators back in 2007 of a swell in claims related to the sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles, causing some to question if government officials missed the signs. In addition, Congressional investigators “cited growing evidence” that not all causes for Toyota’s sudden acceleration problems had been identified. And, to add to the recall total, Toyota recalled 7,300 2010 Camrys to “check a power-steering hose that may be in contact with a brake tube.” The contact can wear a hole in the brake tube, leading to a loss of fluid and longer stopping distances.
Toyota has also been marketing itself in a redemptive light with television commercials that ensure viewers that the company is working to “restore [their] faith in [the] company.”
On Capitol Hill, Toyota has been and plans to continue swinging the “we-make-lots-of-jobs” angle. Toyota employs 34,000 people in the U.S. and accounts for 164,000 other jobs at dealerships and parts suppliers. They even went so far as to fly in 23 workers from Toyota plants around the nation to meet with lawmakers and their staffs.
Strategists feel that as long as Toyota is compliant, forthright and earnest in its efforts to fix the problems, the hearings will be as painless as possible. That doesn’t mean it will not get straightened out, but it will certainly increase its chances of bouncing back once the whole ordeal is over.