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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Did Twitter Topple Toyota?

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Did Twitter Topple Toyota?

What started as an embarrassing problem with floor mats and a theory that they were causing gas pedals to get stuck has led Toyota to initiate a worldwide recall of close to 10 million vehicles while simultaneously trying to salvage its reputation for quality, reliability, and safety. The ordeal has shifted into full-on crisis mode of late: The once invulnerable Prius has been affected, the top-selling Corolla sedan is being investigated for steering problems, and Akio Toyoda, the company’s embattled president and grandson of its founder, is dodging Congress’ desire to have him testify in person about the Great Recall.

Toyota never had much of a chance of controlling this story. But what’s been truly disruptive about the recall controversy is that it happened in the new era of social media. Boilerplate crisis-management stipulates that the company execute a variety of strategies, ranging from laying low and handling the recall problems piecemeal, anticipating that public interest would wane, to offering a public mea culpa, which Toyota’s president did on Feb. 9 in the Washington Post. (A resignation could still be in the offing.)

None of this, though, can contend with the breakneck, crowdsourced, unmediated reputation-wrecker that is the 140 characters of a tweet. As the recall story exploded last week and I pondered the collapse of the vaunted Toyota Way, I checked the #Toyota Twitter tag frequently. The tweet-rate was blistering: Dozens of new tweets every 30 seconds. Give it half an hour and you had a thousand more. Even the most hardened PR warrior would have looked at that and wet his pants.

Of course, it’s not as if Toyota hadn’t issued recalls before. Prior to what Autoblog has been calling “Throttlegate,” the company brought back almost 100,000 cars to fix a braking problem in 2009. More than 100,000 pickups were also recalled last year. In 2006, Toyota faced assorted recalls affecting almost 800,000 cars and trucks.

Recalls are a fact of life in the auto industry; you can fill a Saturday afternoon wandering down recall’s memory lane by Googling recalled makes, models, and years. Sometimes these are a big deal, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes owners forget about a minor-issue recall and never even bring their car back to the dealership to get it fixed. There are even cases in which recalls aren’t legally necessary—such as when the NHTSA investigates a problem and decides to take no action—but the automaker initiates a recall anyway.

Recalls can dent a carmaker’s reputation, but the damage is rarely permanent. Unless, that is, they ascend to a grim pantheon of memorable recalls. These are the true killers, the engineering and PR screwups from which it can take years to recover. Tragically, they are usually associated with needless death and mayhem. In the worst cases, they reveal car companies to have engaged in a callous disregard for human life and a malevolent quest for profits.

No one remembers the Ford Pinto as an innovative effort in the 1970s gas-crisis era to create an inexpensive, fuel-efficient small car. Everyone remembers it as shorthand for “rinkydink sh**box that explodes into flames when struck from the rear.” If they’re well-informed about just how bad the Pinto debacle was, they remember the infamous “Pinto Memo,” in which Ford [F 11.29 -0.09 (-0.79%) ] executives weighed the cost of redesigning what they knew was a problematic gas tank against the expenses they’d incur from death- and injury-related lawsuits. The math said that the fix would cost $121 million, while the inevitable human broilings would only set Ford back $50 million. In a Mother Jones exposé from 1977, a Ford engineer revealed that having enough trunk space for two sets of golf clubs was more important than preventing a human barbecue.

Part two at the link.

link:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/35479185/

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Reading part 1, it is a blatant attempt to drag an ancient Ford situation back into the public eye to deflect attention away from Toyota. Man, they never quit.

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Well, part one is a setup for what's to come once the documents Toyota has been trying to cover up come out.

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I don't see what the big deal is. Whenever a big f@#kup occurs, references to past big f@#kups also occur. Frankly, I'm surprised they referenced AUDI in the 1980s since that was later proven be fake, but they didn't mention the Malibu debacle.

As far as I'm concerned, bringing up 30+ year old bad publicity is perfectly fine--it really should be part of the calculation when a company decides to do a coverup, because when exposed, they never live it down, not even 30 or 40 years down the line.

Willful negligence should be punished.

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This is a hugely complicated affair, what with so many different models, so many different explanations, who knew what, when, and so forth, I can only hope it sticks like glue to Toyota's name for decades. If it ruins them, I am not sad. Honda, Nissan and the hardworking Koreans can stay, for the time being.

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As much as I like to see Toyota fried to a crisp for this, it's sadder how they were underservingly built up by CR and can't think for themselves Americans who have no ability to evaluate products, or scandals by themselves. The bandwagon mentality in all of this scares me. Toyota needs to fix this, but I irate how people made Toyota of greater importance than God, country, and family seemingly. The idol worship all the f@#ked up losers had in this country for 'their toyota' I reallydon't care about how distrought or harmed those losers are. I do feel bad for a guy like one of my friends, a Toyota mechanic. But even he always said, their $h!boxes were no better than anyone else. He knew, he fixed em all the time!

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I don't think anonymous opinions written in Internet jargon with "lol" or "gtfo" at the end had anything to do with Toyota's problems.

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