The Washington Post recently reported on Toyota’s plan of attack against Congressional testimony that criticized the company. Toyota’s high-profile acceleration problems caused nearly 40 deaths and cost the automaker their reputation.
Toyota attempted to discredit two of the primary witnesses by questioning their integrity. The Washington Post states, “The effort was based in part on polling conducted for Toyota by Joel Benenson, President Obama’s chief pollster. His poll questioned the integrity of the witnesses: Sean Kane, a Massachusetts safety consultant, and David Gilbert, an auto technology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.”
Congressional officials have demanded that all documents regarding the plan be handed over immediately and it has been made clear that any attempt to scare off or intimidate witnesses will not be taken lightly. Both Kane and Gilbert have publicly criticized Toyota and have provided testimonies. Gilbert has shown that evidence of an electronic cause of the acceleration problem exists, a claim which Toyota continues to deny.
Toyota officials and lawyers have admitted to the polling efforts and have stood up for the practice, claiming that companies often do market research to guide advertisement efforts and gauge the public opinion of their opponents. The research can help guide the company on how to respond to criticism.
However, many are not convinced that Toyota did not intend to discredit the testimonies made by Kane and Gilbert. Kane made a statement revealing that he believes the automaker’s efforts only prove they have something to hide, because of the time and effort put into such a plan. Clearly, Toyota continues to struggle with bad press and its current schemes only serve to hurt it more among those who follow the issues, which includes many potential customers.