Toyota in Familiar Territory After Latest Recall

Mistakes happen. And for PR professionals, having to handle your organization’s crisis is part of the job. 

But being faced with the same mistake twice in a short time span can be a nightmare.

Welcome to Toyota’s world.

For the second time in three years, problems with floor mats causing sudden, unwanted acceleration has forced the car manufacturer to issue a recall; it is recallling about 154,000, 2010-model Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid SUVs. This latest glitch comes after Toyota had to recall 6.9 million vehicles for a floor mat issue and an additional 2.1 million vehicles for a gas pedal malfunction in 2009. The recall comes in wake of Toyota’s announcement of a technology partnership with BMW.

In a report by USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the latest recall came after a review of a large number of consumer complaints as well as information provided by Toyota. The NHSTA is also investigating whether Toyota informed the government in a timely manner about the flaw.

According to a statement on its Web site, the NHSTA “urges consumers impacted by the recall to immediately remove the floor mat and have their vehicles serviced promptly. While NHTSA anticipates the remedy proposed by Toyota will address the problem, the agency will continue to monitor the issue and will take appropriate action as warranted.”

While consumer safety is the No. 1 issue in any recall, from a PR perspective, Toyota now finds itself, yet again, having to deal with a damaged reputation and consumer uncertainty. Recalls create doubt and force consumers to question whether or not an organization takes safety seriously. Considering Toyota's recent track record, a proactive, all-encompassing message that it's taking this latest recall seriously and is committed to eradicating similar problems in the future would seem to be an obvious strategy.

Yet a quick glace at the official Toyota Twitter feed reveals no mention of the recall. On its Facebook page? Nothing at all. A brand's social media feed is the quickest way to share information and hear feedback. Silence, in this case, sends a loud and clear message—no one seems to be at the wheel.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson