Toyota: Accelerator Pedal Recall (A)
(2 pages of text)
In January 2010, global automotive manufacturer Toyota faced the task of notifying customers of a recall that involved a faulty accelerator pedal on 1.7 million vehicles. Toyota had already come under intense public scrutiny the previous year over a floor mat recall that affected 4.2 million vehicles. In an attempt to reach the masses for the current recall, Toyota created a letter to customers that was featured in major newspapers and on its website. The letter caused outrage as Toyota did not apologize to consumers. Instead, it talked about the company’s 50-year heritage and how Toyota was halting production to focus on fixing the vehicles that were on the road. The president of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. needed to identify the problems with the letter before drafting a new one.
Lessons in the automotive industry had been learned the hard way from tire manufacturer Bridgestone. A public backlash occurred in 2003, with class action lawsuits against Bridgestone for faulty tires that caused some vehicles to roll over.
This case helps place students directly into a large crisis situation. Within an organization, students must look at the importance of conveying the correct information and message to the public/media when problems arise, or else facing the consequences. Students must perform an analysis to understand the problem and the various stakeholders, in order to prioritize what content needs to be included in a message to help defuse a delicate situation. Consideration of writing style (language, tone, etc.) should be given. It is also important to identify what not to communicate to avoid making a situation worse. It can be taught as a single case or a two-part case. Four letters are attached in the teaching note to allow an instructor to show how communication progressed over time.
United States, Large, 2010
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