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U.S., Japan approach crisis differently

A new Toyota Highlander waits to be unloaded from a truck at Hanlees Hilltop Toyota in Richmond, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Toyota president's, Akio Toyoda, says he won't be making the trip to Washington to testify on Capitol Hill later this month. The automaker exec said today he thinks his North America chief is the logical choice to testify in U.S. congressional hearings. Now this is the third time Toyoda's appeared before the press since the recall began. It's just one of the reasons Toyota has been criticized for its handling of the crisis. But as Marketplace automotive reporter Alisa Roth explains, it's partly cultural.


Alisa Roth: The American way of dealing with a crisis is to deny, deny, deny. And when things go wrong at a company, we expect to hear from the CEO right away.

James Lincoln is a finance professor at UC Berkeley's business school:

James Lincoln: The U.S. corporation has a tendency to deny that was at fault.

He says here, admitting fault can leave you open to lawsuits. But in Japan, nobody's worried about getting sued. So companies there delay until they're ready to talk. And few companies are more traditionally Japanese than Toyota.

Lincoln: So I think it is very much a part of the culture to apologize, hang your head low, sorry, say we screwed up, we will do better.

Michael Cusumano is a management professor at MIT's Sloan school. He says Toyota's just not worldly enough to know how to deal with an international PR problem.

Michael Cusumano: Toyota is really still at heart a country bumpkin kind of company.

It may just need to study its own example: there was a big recall of Lexus right after the cars were introduced in the U.S. Toyota pulled out all the stops to make the fix as easy as possible for customers. And until now, has been the textbook case for how to handle a recall.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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