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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Toyota does little to dispel doubts, some experts say

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Toyota does little to dispel doubts, some experts say

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

While the situation could change today, Toyota didn't do much during Tuesday's congressional hearing to convince the public it moved swiftly enough or that it fully understood the source of its technical problems, experts said.

The Japanese automaker is facing scrutiny after recalling more than 8 million vehicles because of sudden acceleration and braking concerns.

"I think they are handling themselves as well as they can under the circumstances and I think Congress is being gentle with them," said Lauren Bloom, an ethics attorney and corporate apology expert.

Bloom said Toyota did OK on Tuesday, but the company is struggling to recover from the appearance that it reacted slowly as it learned of the sudden acceleration issues and proposed solutions -- such as removing floor mats -- which don't seem to address the root of the problem.

"If you look at what they are saying today, they say it's not electrical, but they really don't say what it is," Bloom said.

Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz began his testimony Tuesday with an apology that sought to deal with Toyota's slow reaction.

"Put simply, it has taken us too long to come to grips with a rare but serious set of safety issues despite all of our good-faith efforts," Lentz said. "The problem has also been compounded by our poor communications."

But Toyota's repeated apologies and shifting solutions to problems doesn't seem to be helping the company's image.

"I think they are trying to do the right things," said Bud Liebler, head of the Liebler Group and former senior vice president of marketing and communications for Chrysler. "Except ... it is starting to ring hollow."

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100224/BUSINESS0104/2240346/1331/BUSINESS01/Toyota-does-little-to-dispel-doubts-some-experts-say

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