RECALLS: Honda CEO sets an impressive standard

honda recall

This article contains quotes from Ronn Torossian of 5WPR based in New York City.

Very few things can wreck perfectly good public relations like a public recall. Just ask GM. But auto recalls don’t have to kill your credibility. Ronn Torossian reveals how a recent move by a top automaker’s CEO shows how one can turn negative news into positive PR.

Honda recently announced a recall of 5 million cars in America related to faulty airbags. The issue, which has been responsible for at least four deaths, came on the heels of other massive recalls by competitors. However, unlike its competitors, Honda’s top executives have chosen to take a personal financial hit in the wake of the recalls. Honda CEO Takanobu Ito was one of the first – by taking a 20 percent pay cut for three months. Further, Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike and 11 other directors will return 10 percent of their pay. While these sums may not prove to be huge losses for the car company’s top executives, the gesture translates into very positive public relations.

Honda is still working to fix the mechanical problem, however, this PR move has allowed the company to quickly and simply change the direction of news reporting as well as the public’s opinion surrounding the recall. Instead of just being one more uncaring automaker, Honda is now regarded as the company whose CEO took responsibility for a problem AND THEN went forward to work on a solution.

Ronn Torossian believes this PR stance works even better because it practically forces news reporters discussing Honda’s move to list other competitors whose top brass did not take the same personal responsibility. Americans love personal responsibility – particularly when it is being demonstrated by a household brand name whose associates really screwed up. This PR move might just encourage many buyers to decide that Honda is even more American than its competitors who actually manufacture vehicles in the USA.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.


  1. Grace O'Rourke says

    First, I have a Honda Accord [purchased brand new], which was always serviced, first, by one dealer than another Honda dealer. I made the switch because I caught the first Honda service center in an outright lie – advising me that my car needed the “…timing belt replaced at a cost over $1,000…” After checking, I found out that my car doesn’t have a timing belt. Although I gave the Honda tech an opportunity to correct his statement, he did not; in fact, he still insisted that I needed the timing belt replaced! Upon taking it to another Honda service center, they advised that I was correct that my car did not have a timing belt and they found no mechanical problems. I stayed with the second Honda service center until they gave me cause to doubt their credibility too. To clarify, for many years, I noticed spots appearing on my car but no one at the Honda service centers said anything about this. As I don’t know much about cars, I didn’t know what to make of this. Eventually, it got so bad that I looked online and found numerous Honda automobile owners – especially, Accords – having the same problem, which is attributed to Honda manufacturing cars with clear coat that was/is incompatible with the paint so it peels. If not taken care of, the car rusts. I saw that there was a class action suit but Honda’s legal team won against their consumers. When I found this out, I asked the Honda service center manager, as to why he nor any tech mentioned this to me as it had to be obvious to them that this was in fact happening to my car WHILE IT WAS UNDER WARRANTY!!! In addition to this problem being round door and hood edges, etc. there was a very large peeled spot on the front of my roof. The Honda service center rep got angry and defensive. As such, I never returned to Honda again. I was upset that being a Honda service center, they had to be aware of what they were seeing on my car, yet, chose to deliberately not raise this with me while my car was under warranty. By the time, I discovered the cause of the problem and raised this with Honda, my car had just passed it’s warranty. It is a well-known problem openly discussed online for years – even today. I spent $1600 repainting the roof of my Honda Accord due to Honda’s manufacturing error. Now, I have to spend another $2,000 to repaint the rest of the car since the paint-peeling has escalated on my trunk, doors, etc. to the point that, if I don’t repaint it, the car will rust. Although not a safety problem, Honda’s Chairman (Fumihiko Ike), President/CEO (Takanobu Ito), and American Honda’s President (John Mendel) should take responsibility for the masses of consumers, whose Honda automobiles were manufactured with defective paint jobs. Honda should be ashamed to have let this issue go for so long and to leave it up to their consumers to absorb the cost of fixing Honda’s error. Your article gives kudos for Honda’s CEO doing the right thing in respect to air bags; however, you don’t speak about the many years thru today that Honda’s Chairman, President/CEO, and US President have refused to take responsibility for the defective paint jobs on many of their vehicles including mine. I will never buy another car from Honda and will share my experience with others.

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