A Lesson in Communicating Bad News:
The Toyota Recall Crisis: Missteps, Miscommunications, and Missed Opportunities
Mari E. Friedrich
June 24, 2015
The paper will serve to examine the corporate leadership failures of the Toyota 2009-2010 defective acceleration recalls. Focusing specifically, on a case that occurred in the state of California in 2011, resulting in a massive recall by Toyota, and nearly 30 percent of all U.S. vehicle recalls in 2010. This study will center on Toyota’s response on the case facts and its internal and external communications with Toyota North America, the Toyota owners, and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration ...view middle of the document...
The floor mat issue became a public concern with the Lexus accident in August 2009. The Lexus suddenly accelerated out of control, hit another car fell down an embankment and caught fire (Mackenzie and Evans, 2010). The car was speeding in excess of 100 mph, the driver and three other occupants of the car were killed in the crash.
In September 2009 the initial reports from Toyota was that the Lexus must have had the wrong floor mats installed, which interfered with the gas pedal. (Heller and Darling, 2012). Within that same month they said they were going to recall the floor mats on 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Toyota further encouraged owners to remove their floor mats entirely, and directed dealers to secure the floor mats in the vehicles so they would not interfere with the gas pedal. In October of 2009, the results of the August 2009 Lexus crash investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that the incorrect rubber floor mats had been installed in the car and that the accelerator pedal had become jammed against the mat causing the car to experience unintended acceleration. (Heller and Darling, 2012).
Toyota’s Response Adding to Consumer Confusion
That same month the results of the investigation of by the NHTSA went public. Toyota began sending letters to owners notifying them of an upcoming recall to fix the unintended acceleration issue. In the letters, Toyota stated that no defect existed. Soon after, the NHTSA publicly criticized Toyota, referring to Toyota’s information as “inaccurate and misleading.” ((Heller and Darling, 2012). Toyota officials made a public apology. Later in November 2009, Toyota issued a press release denying media reports that a problem even existed with the gas pedal. Toyota cited the NHTSA report to support their position, showing that the agency had refused a petition by Toyota to open a new investigation into the unintended acceleration.
Facts and Major Issues
In October 2007, Toyota’s announced its first recall involved the floor mats and Toyota directed owners to remove the floor mats or have them zip-tied by a Toyota dealer. This recall included 4.2 million cars over seven model years. But, during eight years prior to this recall, Toyota ignored over 1,200 complaints of unintended acceleration, and in January 2010, Toyota initiated a second recall, this time it involved 2.3 million vehicles because of continued problems with unintended acceleration. The second recall was accountable for over 50 percent of Toyota’s US annual sales.
During this time, the US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood announced that the US government asked Toyota to stop selling any of the recalled vehicles. Toyota confirmed LaHood’s announcement. At the end of January 2010, Toyota had recalled 4.2 million vehicles for the pedal entrapment/floor mat problem, and an additional 2.3 million for the accelerator pedal problem, 1.7 million vehicles...