Customer Consciousness – Toyota Recalling Over 95,700 Vehicles Sold in US


Toyota makes a costly marketing move, but a move that denotes customer consciousness, respect and care. The company is recalling about 95,700 vehicles sold in the US because, under certain conditions, these could endanger drivers and passengers lives.

Let this be a lesson for other car manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz for example – whose A series automatic was repeatedly reported faulty, but instead of recalling malfunctioning vehicles, Mercedes-Benz expects its customers to pay for repairs. I guess not all manufacturers have the class and customer awareness of Toyota. But enough with the rant…

The Toyota recall affects 2009 and 2010 models of the Corolla and the 2008 and 2009 models of the Scion xD, all equipped with 1.8-liter engines and registered in 19 cold weather states in 19 states: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

You see, when a big manufacturer announces that it will pull off the market such an enormous number of vehicles, the media cannot close their eyes. Questions are being asked, speculations arise – but for a PR professional the reasoning is simple. Toyota does not want to see its brand in the headlines associated with accidents that were caused by a manufacturing flaw.

This reminds me of a Rolls Royce story. A man once bought a brand-new Rolls Royce and had it shipped to the US. Several weeks past, and the man hit an obstacle in the road breaking the rear axle of the car. He called the Rolls Royce rep he bought the car from and asked him who to get to repair the damage. The man said: I’ll have someone pick the car up and take it to be repaired for you. Sure enough, a couple of hours later, sure enough, a repair man showed up with a wrecker and took the car away. Three or four days pass and a man appeared at the door and in very polite Queen’s English said: “Sir, there is no problem with your car.” Misunderstanding, the car’s owner said: “What do you mean, I broke its axle.” The gentleman smiled, handed him the keys and said: “I am sorry for your trouble, sir, but you are mistaken. Rolls Royce axles don’t break.”

There is a PR lesson in this story too: brands synonymous with excellence should provide excellent customer support. There’s a lot to win when customers realize that the after-sale support is as good as before-sale. Many dealers put on a smile only to make a sale and then…. “what’s behind me makes no difference.”

Toyota gives today a hard lesson – because any other manufacturer might be tempted to take a risk instead of recalling 95,700 vehicles. But when the risk means potential loss of human lives, is it worth taking? Toyota believes it’s not, and so do I. And I hope the folks from Mercedes-Benz Hess Trier learn a bit from today’s story too, and never sell a faulty vehicle again!

Shift Communications serves as Toyota’s Public Relations company of record

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