Will Toyota's Media Blitz Repolish the Brand?
The automaker is pulling out all the stops with newspaper ads and TV spots. Will customers and investors be reassured?
While a fix for Toyota's sticking accelerators is already en route to dealers, the company must now restore its beleaguered image. Pulling out all the stops, the Japanese automaker purchased full-page ads in 20 major U.S. newspapers and booked media appearances on the Today Show, MSNBC and CNN. A lot rides on the success of the PR offensive, as the company's shares dropped 14 percent last week, losing $21 billion in market value. Will Toyota turn its image around?
On the Today Show, Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz told Matt Lauer "I drive Toyotas. My family members drive Toyotas ... I would not have them in products that I knew were not safe." But Lauer pushed back. He cited consumer complaints about Toyota's accelerators dating back to the '90s. He asked if Toyota had "dragged its feet." Lentz countered:
No I don't believe we did...This company has been in the U.S. for 50 years. We've built our reputation on quality, dependability, reliability and safety.
On the newspaper front, Toyota put out this ad:
Some say the ad's language comes off as tone deaf. Gawker's Adrien Chen:
Instead of the straightforward mea culpa Toyota should have offered, the ad is a mealy-mouthed attempt to spin a major misstep into an honorable sacrifice by Toyota on behalf of its precious customers, so fragile and easily damaged by car crashes...Toyota recalled millions of cars because some of them do the worst thing possible for a car to do: They get stuck in "go". To spin the production stoppage as "putting customers first" rather than "keeping customers from getting killed by our dangerously defective product" is lame.
Elsewhere, Toyota has sounded more apologetic than noble. In a company video disseminated on the Internet, Lentz says "I want to sincerely apologize to Toyota owners... I know that we've let you down. Many of our dealers will have extended hours to...get this job down."