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Toyota

Toyota questions runaway Prius story

Marketplace Staff Mar 15, 2010
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Toyota

Toyota questions runaway Prius story

Marketplace Staff Mar 15, 2010
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Toyota has clearly decided enough’s enough with all the recent reports of unintended acceleration in its hybrid Priuses. The company held a press conference today to say nobody’s been able to re-create the incident from San Diego last week. The one where the highway patrol had to pull in front to help slow it down.

Some analysts are saying it’s about time the company started getting control of this story. And reassuring its customers.

Marketplace’s Alisa Roth explains that can be a tricky balance.


ALISA ROTH: Toyota’s critics say that since this crisis began, the company hasn’t missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It took too long to respond to concerns about the recalls. And when it finally did respond, it said all the wrong things.

David Margulies is a public relations expert. He says it seems like Toyota’s finally getting ahead of the story.

DAVID MARGULIES: You can certainly point to things that are not true or don’t seem to address the issue and that way you’re being proactive. You’re out doing something. You’re not hiding in a bunker somewhere. And that’s what people want to see.

In a lot of ways, this is really a perception issue. Only a few Toyotas have had problems. But that’s not the way the public sees it. Toyota’s enormous challenge now is to convince people its cars are safe to drive.

David Boule is at PCGCampbell, it’s a marketing and communications firm that specializes in the auto industry. He says if last week’s incident with the runaway Prius turns out to be a hoax, it could be a good opportunity for Toyota. But the company will still have to handle it carefully.

DAVID BOULE: They still have to be very cautious about being perceived as cavalier or uncaring, that they’re not taking all of this responsibly and doing the right thing.

He says it’s like Toyota’s driving a narrow mountain road. It has to defend itself, without sounding defensive.

BOULE: They have some wind at their back now, and they have some third-party endorsers, so it’s not just their investigation.

At the press conference today, Toyota said preliminary findings were inconsistent with the driver’s account. And that there should be a further investigation into that driver’s story.

I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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