In 2009 and 2010, Toyota UK recalled many automobiles from the market. In January 2010, the company recalled automobiles since they had sticky accelerator pedals. The recalls made by the company in the two years injured own reputation markedly, especially among its customers in the UK. After each of the recalls, the customers left comments expressing their disaffection with the company’s crisis communication approaches. Even though its spokespeople gave out many reassuring messages on varied media platforms, its reputation suffered marked challenge (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012; Liker & Franz, 2011)Hemus, 2010). This paper explores the effectiveness of how Toyota communicated during the crisis typified by the recalls.
Overview of the Toyota UK 2009 – 2010 Recall Crisis Situation
Between the last months of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, Toyota recalled automobiles three distinct times. The company initiated the three recalls. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) helped the company with the initial two recalls after receiving many client complaints that several Toyota automobiles were experiencing inadvertent acceleration. The foremost recall in November 2009 was aimed at allowing the company work on potential incursions of faulty floor mats into several vehicles’ foot pedal wells (Liker & Franz, 2011). The incursions were thought to bring about pedal entrapments. In 2010, investigations showed that some crashes of Toyota automobiles did not emanate from the incursions but sticky accelerator pedals. The pedals were causing the inadvertent accelerations. Toyota initiated the foremost action in its October 2009 Defect Information Report. The report was amended accordingly in January 2010. After the accelerator pedal along with floor mat recalls, the company recalled several vehicles regarding their hybrid antilock software also in the early months of 2010 (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012).
The communications sent out by the company during the accelerator pedal along with floor mat recall crisis had varied ethical implications. The communications projected the company as accepting responsibility for the faulty automobiles over time. In crisis communication, accountability is critical (Liker & Franz, 2011). Toyota took responsibility for the faults in the recalled vehicles even though they were caused by other parties. The crisis situation projected the company’s products as being of wanting quality and its practices as opaque. The company incurred considerable losses from the recalls, and its competitors were keen on capitalizing on its misfortune by wooing away its customers (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012; Liker & Franz, 2011). The company was afraid that its reputation would have been further eroded by potential class-action suits against it from discontented business analysts and investors.
Traditionally, Toyota emphasizes on effectiveness. Its keenness on effectiveness has made it renowned for its efficient production systems for many years. It has embraced effectiveness as its elementary management objective for long. The company projects itself as engaging every employee in persistent improvement. Even then, the crisis projected it as having some inefficient systems and not being on staff engagement.
The crisis (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012). Fewer considerably developed engineers, as well as leaders, were assigned more workloads.
Regarding culture, the crisis situation was blamed on Toyota’s hierarchical management approach as well as its opaque communication (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012). The approach and the communication were seen as impeding junior staff members from communicating the flaws that they noticed promptly. Consequently, numerous problems in the company went unnoticed and unresolved until the crisis situation happened according to Hemus (2010).
Effectiveness of Toyota’s Crisis Communication
When the crisis situation was underway, Toyota was devoid of open communication lines owing to its hierarchical management approach as well as its opaque communication tradition. As noted earlier, the approach and the tradition impeded junior staff members from communicating the flaws that they noticed promptly. Consequently, numerous problems in the company went unnoticed and unresolved until the crisis situation occurred (Hemus, 2010).
Toyota took lots of time before accepting responsibility for the faulty cars. It did not promptly, as well as authentically, accepts responsibility for the situation. There were delays in the making out of the situation initially, projecting the company as only having ignored the problems that occasioned the situation until it was compelled to act on them. The actuality that the company failed to authentically accept responsibility for the situation projects it as having engaged in corporate denial, possibly owing to an organizational culture that prevented it from being adequately vigilant for possible crises and establishing open communication lines (Hemus, 2010).
Toyota’s leaders did not express candor, or forthrightness, in their communication during the crisis situation. The leaders came off as not been in control of the events and having been inclined towards taking decisive action in addressing the situation in a coordinated way. The actuality that the company recalled automobiles severally meant that the leaders were not forthright in how they acted on the first recall. The leaders toyed with the idea of recalls for long rather communicating them promptly when it became clear that they were necessary.
Toyota did not utilize the media adequately, as well as effectively, in delivering its principal messages during the crisis situation (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012). Its executives were not readily available to the media most of the time. Whenever they became available to the media, they frequently appeared to be fumbling through interviews. Miguel Fonseca, the then Toyota’s managing director in the UK almost undoubtedly brought up increased concern and confusion whenever he was interviewed by the media (Hemus, 2010). Even then, the leaders shared the related bad news and good news whenever they communicated through the media. The expressed considerably consistent, as well as believable, communication whenever the media engaged them.
However, the leaders did not involve customers and employees in the company’s crisis situation-related communication effort. That possibly stemmed from the company’s hierarchical management approach. The approach impedes customers and employees from communicating the flaws that they notice promptly. As noted earlier, the approach meant that numerous problems in the company went unnoticed and unresolved until the crisis situation occurred (Hemus, 2010).
The communication-related actions related to the crisis situation were not in agreement with its mission as well as values (Wimmer & Muni, 2012). Traditionally, Toyota emphasizes on effectiveness, which has made it renowned for efficient systems for many years. Even then, from the foregoing, it is clear that the company was devoid of efficient communication teams and strategies during the crisis situation. As noted earlier, the crisis projected it as having some inefficient systems (Dietz & Gillespie, 2012). Even then, the actions projected the company as true to the value it attaches to responsibility. Especially, as noted earlier, the actions projected the company as accepting responsibility for the faulty automobiles over time (Hemus, 2010).
- Toyota should put in place measures to enable it to communicate effectively in crises before they happen. Particularly, the company should:
- Anticipate crises
- Carry out regular vulnerability audits
- Create communications and operational plans for responding to possible crises
- Make out its crisis communication officers or teams
- Make out, as well as train, crisis spokespersons
- Whenever a crisis happens, Toyota should gather the relevant facts promptly and communication them aggressively and promptly to avoid possible uncertainties (Liker & Franz, 2011).
- In its crisis communications, Toyota has an ethical duty to own up its mistakes or faults promptly and assure its stakeholders that it will work on them promptly.
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